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Headscratchers: A Song of Ice and Fire
Note to tropers: The television show has its own Headscratchers page. This one will have many unmarked spoilers.

  • Why does Ned refuse Renly's offer to take Joffrey prisoner? Firstly, this would prevent the little sociopath from ascending to the throne. It would also give the Lannisters some pause about making a move on King's Landing, giving Stannis (Ned's preferred successor to Robert) time to rally his forces. Yes, Ned, taking children prisoner is in morally grey waters - but do you remember a certain Theon Greyjoy?
    • It's one thing to take the son of your enemy as a ward as a consequence for rebellion against the throne, so as to breed them into the man the mentor wanted them to be for the future, and another thing entirely to seize the heir to the throne, almost universally recognized as such (with a few who knew what was actually going on), and hold him outright hostage. Do remember that Theon was Ned's "Ward", this case would have been "Kidnapping a young child", especially one who had yet to commit any crimes worthy of being imprisoned. Far less honorable.
      • The North, the Riverlands, the Reach, the Stormlands, the Iron Islands and Dragonstone all rose up against Joffrey. They certainly didn't universally recognize him as heir.
      • The North and Riverlands only fought against the Crown after Ned was killed; The Reach and Stormlands did so to back Renly, but the Reach later changed their minds; The Iron Islands fought against the North, not the Crown; Only Dragonstone didn't recognize him as heir to begin with. Besides, Ned's main issue was the safety of the children and the idea of shedding blood during the mourning period.

  • Why didn't Ned simply tell Robert about his wife, then stand up for the kids and protect them with his very life? The kids are innocent, but their mother isn't, and there's no reason for him to give her a chance to save herself (and cause a war with Castelry Rock). And it's not like he hadn't taken hostages before, such as Theon.
    • The kids were the product of incest (abominations in the eyes of the faith of the seven), and the product of the queen cheating on the king with a member of the kingsguard. Everything about that sentence equates to all of them needing to die by law. Also, Ned's track record with convincing Robert that killing kids was bad was 0-2 at that point. He couldn't do anything to convince Robert not to kill Dany, he had no reason to think he'd be able to convince him not to kill the Lannister bastards.
    • Yes, but Dany is the sister of the man who had (in Robert's eyes, anyway) abducted and raped the love of his life. It stands to reason he'd show her no mercy, and it makes even more sense he'd dispose of Rhaenys and Aegon due to their even closer connection to Rhaegar. I'm sure most people would agree that it's a darn sight harder to kill three kids you've thought of as your own for thirteen-plus years.
      • Kids that you suddenly learn are not only not yours, but are your brother in law's bastards hidden and lied to you by your wife, who stand to inherit everything to your name in a society where your name is everything. Dubious parentage like that is why we have Jerry Springer.
      • If Robert's reaction was to have them all immediately executed (and he seems like the type who might), it'd be a little late to then protest that the children were innocent of any treason (which would ironically save Joffrey).

  • Why did Varys put out the hit on Dany? ADWD reveals that Varys' plan, at the time, was for Viserys to join The Golden Company with Khal Drogo's khalasar (the price of which was Dany's hand in marriage), so wouldn't her death pretty much put an end to the pact? I understand he didn't want to support Ned in front of the Council so as not to draw attention/suspicion to himself, but, why not just take Robert's orders, tell him the assassin failed? Why actually send the poisoner?
    • According to Jorah, they didn't so much send the poisoner as they put out an open bounty; kill one of the Targaryan siblings, get a lordship. Dany even joked that Robert owed Drogo a lordship for killing Viserys. Varys seemed to be betting that any attempt made would simply fail; Dany was the most protected person in what was suggested to be the most powerful khalassar in the world, sending anything less than a Faceless Man would most likely result in failure. On the other hand, he did have the ace of "Aegon" up his sleeve; maybe he was planning on killing Viserys and Dany as a way of putting Robert into a false sense of security. Varys' plans have to be flexible.
    • Also, while he didn't actually say (I think?) that "Go slowly, you say - move faster, I reply" line from the TV show in the books, it does make sense that his goal would be to get Dany moving for Westeros instead of allowing her to settle contentedly into Essos and maybe be less likely to want to leave later. Remember: that assassination attempt was the thing that really got the Dothraki fired up for an invasion. Without it, Dany might still be chilling in the grasslands.
      • I was under the impression that Varys sent the poisoner to build trust between Dany and Jorah. He told Jorah about the poisoner so that he could save her and she would see that he saved her life.
      • Varys had only warned Jorah that attempts would be made. Having just received the warning, Jorah would be doubly suspicious and so insisted the wine seller taste his own product first.

  • If Lysa Arryn was behind her husband's death, what is Cersei so worried about in the beginning of GoT? Jaime has to tell her that "If Lysa knew anything, she would have gone to Robert before she fled King's Landing." There's nothing for Lysa to know, unless they're just talking about their Twincest? But how would Lysa know about that? Was this just a Retcon, then? GRRM deciding in ADWD that the Lannisters being behind Arryn's death didn't make as interesting a story?
    • I think it is their Twincest, and that Jon Arryn was starting to work out that Joffrey and Tommen and Myrcella might not be Robert's children, because he was looking at some of Robert's bastards as well and how they all had black hair. Cersei's worried that Jon knew Jaime was the father of her kids and told Lysa about it.
      • Considering that in the book Jon went to see Gendry with Stannis, and Ned never got any letters to Dragonstone (like in the show) because of Sansa being an idiot, the fact that Stannis knew about the Twincest at the start of the war shows that Jon Arryn worked it out before he died.
      • I assume that Cersei was worried that Robert would believe anything that cast her in a bad light, whether or not it was true. Jon Arryn was like a father to Rob and if Jon's wife said he was murdered Robert could very well smash skulls first and look for the truth later. There was also the fear that Jon Arryn might have told his wife something in the confidence of their bed.

  • If the men of the Night's Watch aren't meant to hold titles, how come they are led by a Lord Commander rather than, say, just a commander?
    • Commander is a title as well, so I don't see the difference here. At any rate, the oath they swear about holding no titles surely mean no titles external to the Night's Watch. An organization which ideally employs several thousand people can't work if there is no sort of hierarchy.
      • In a feudal context, a "title" is more than just an appellation in front of your name; it's actual lands and authorities for yourself and your heirs. Lord Commander is just a rank (the lord part being relevant partially because it's just a generic term for a ranked person, and partially because the Night's Watch as a whole possesses lands).
      • The Kingsguard is also led by a Lord Commander. Also, both Varys and Hallyne are Lords even though they hold no lands or even a house.
      • Varys 'isn't' an actual lord, he is only called 'Lord Varys' out of respect.
      • If i recall correctly, it started out when Littlefinger referred to him as "Lord Eunuch", and people started using the "Lord"-part in public. In that case it's more of an ascended joke than respect. (Most everyone openly dislikes Varys anyways...)

  • If a winter can last for as long as an entire generation (20 years +), er, how exactly can they grow food during this period? I mean, in our world, a hard winter can be enough to cause some serious starving, but when virtually the entire continent(?) suffers from extreme temperatures, how in the name of the old gods do they have even a slight chance of making it through a relatively short winter period, let alone a long one? And with this continent wide civil war going on... will a wizard do it all??
    • (Placed up here because it answers the original question) They make use of "glass gardens" in westeros. Such a glass garden is - depending on size and selection of crops) able to feed a whole castle.
    • In addition to glass gardens there must also be some sort of trade with the more southern portions of Westeros and the other continents. In winter, not 'all' of Westeros is covered in snow (certainly not Dorne). So some food must get up there. The Riverlands probably get it pretty bad, and everything north of the Neck is probably on lockdown. The people that probably get screwed the worst are the smallfolk, but sadly no-one really cares about them. There's a difference between "winter" conditions and "arctic" conditions. I'm betting that anything south of the Neck doesn't get much worst than "winter" except during the particularly harsh ones.
    • Bear in mind that summers last longer than winters, and winters rarely last more than five years, so if they can preserve food they're just as well off as on earth. Also, in the area of Kings Landing it's probably going to be possible to raise some frost-resistant crops even during the winter. The winter that lasted an entire generation was all-around bad news, but that was 8000 years ago.
      • Also, Seasons don't last anything like 20 years, in general. In the TV series, Littlefinger notes that they have enough food for a five year Winter, which is presumably a reasonable precaution. A twenty year Winter is more like a thousand year storm (and the effect of which would be apocalyptic, like Dany's vision in the House of the Undying).
    • Westeros in general seems to be slightly more tropical than mediaeval Europe - there are alligators in the Neck, remember. Out on the Wall it is probably fairly grim, but then they can hunt animals and have other food sent up from the southern parts of the North.
    • They store what they can (I believe they mention having five years' worth of stores before winter) and probably buy what they need from abroad. Certainly a few traders in the Free Cities have figured out that there's a seasonal gold mine to be had, especially since whether or not the long seasons are an entirely Westerosi concept may mean that Essos has can have regular harvests.
  • How do they measure years in this universe? Actually, why do they measure by years, considering the main cultural point of a year is seasonal shift?
    • The seasons are not regular enough to use as years in the Ice and Fire universe. They could use the moon, of course.
      • Exactly - why don't they just measure by the lunar cycle? Or say ten lunar cycles equal a year - because ten is a more natural number to use as an increment than twelve is. (On the other hand, what if that's what they've been doing all along? Just when I thought this universe couldn't get any squickier...)
      • You're used to the decimal system, so it's understandable that you think people might choose ten months because it is "more natural". Look at stuff like the Imperial system, and you will realize that this really hasn't been the case throughout history. People have used base-20, base-12, base-60... you can't just make a blanket statement like "ten is more logical" and expect it to stick. They could have made it twelve months or even thirteen, because both of those numbers are more "mystical". Without detailed reference to Westeros astronomy, we really can't tell what system they used to decide the year.
      • You know who started base twelve (and, by extension, 60)? The Mesopotamians. Not coincidentally, they were the first to mix agriculture and astronomy in a big way. Base ten, of course, came about because humans have ten fingers, and one of the main points of A Song of Ice and Fire is just how self-centered human beings are.
      • We can be fairly sure that they use base-10 in Westeros because there were 77 courses at Joffrey's wedding in A Storm of Swords. Eleven sevens would not have been particularly holy (by virtue of 77 having two sevens) outside of base-10. It could be argued that any multiple of 7 would do the job for a wedding, but the fact that 7 is the only number Tyrion quotes as acceptable below 77 when thinking about a cheaper wedding would suggest otherwise.
    • Word of God says the Westerosi year is approximately the same length as an Earth year. So if their lunar cycle is the same, 12 months.
    • A year is not only seasonal, it is also the time it takes for the planet to go around the sun or, from the POV of the locals, for the sun to repeat its path through the sky (e.g. time between solstices)
      • Seasons on Earth are caused in large part by insolation, literally the term for how much of the sun's energy is hitting the Earth's surface. The Earth's tilt causes less or more sunlight to hit a particular area at a particular time, so it is colder or hotter there on average...hence we have seasons. So if the book universe has the same insolation patterns, i.e. the same solstice/equinox timeline, we would expect it to have the same seasonal pattern as well. Clearly it doesn't. The most likely explanation for years being the same is so that we can hear that someone is 10 years old and know what it means; i.e. the author doesn't have to invent, explain, and keep track of an entirely different year system. Or it's possible he just didn't think about it very deeply.
      • How do you know that? More to the point, how do they know how long it takes their world to orbit the sun? Do the know that their world orbits the sun and not the other way around? Does their planet orbit the sun or is it the other way around (only one planet in a star system with a moon could be said to be the center of the system)? Are their solstices a year apart, what with the seasons being crazy like they are? Really I'm just curious how you can have a irregular seasonal structure.
      • They may not know the orbital mechanics of it but it's trivially easy to make a practical measure of the position of the sun. Stonehenge and various Egyptian structures serve as or have that function included. It's the difference between being able to measure something and understanding how it works. And I'd also point out, the heliocentric model is a lot older than people think.
      • The sky does have seven 'wanderers', implying that there are eight planets in total orbiting the sun, like our universe. If all seven are visible to the naked eye, and don't include the sun and moon this implies that the equivalents of Uranus and Neptune are closer and/or brighter than in our universe. Alternatively, the last two may only be visible through telescopes (Myrish lenses).
      • When ASOIAF first started being written, the solar system had nine planets, so I wouldn't rely too heavily on the intent being to have an Earthlike solar system. This also, of course, depends exactly which book this was mentioned in.
      • False, Pluto was discovered back in 1930. Anyways, it's actually possible that the unusual seasons can be put down to multiple suns (mostly because we don't know how that would work with certainty just yet), only one of which is visible thanks to atmospheric issues or such other crazy things that can distort the light. Is it also possible for there to be a slighter planet tilt on their world, and that their winters are just ice ages like our planet has gotten...?
      • Not False, As Pluto is the 9th planet and was considered a planet then, but now it's not. As for the seasons, this troper assumed it had more to do with magic then the planet's orbital behavior.
    • No idea how the seasons actually work. Even the author shrugs and goes "magic" on that one.
      • To be fair, the seasons and the coming of Winter are big plot points that the author may not want to reveal prematurely, rather than just not knowing how it works.
      • The seasons could be explained by an elliptical orbit, similar to Pluto. If the planet orbits the sun slower, then long summers and long winters can be explained by the planet's distance from the sun.
      • The seasons would still be regular in that case, just longer.
      • He doesn't just shrug and say magic, he says that the explanation for that is magical. That doesn't mean he doesn't know what it is.
    • Perhaps they don't actually measure years, and any mention of years is part of a Translation Convention. Alternately, I recall hearing somewhere that Westeros' peculiar seasons are not natural in origin, and may be linked to The Doom of Valyria. In that case, they might be referring to the length of the seasonal cycle before then, which they've been keeping track of themselves, and which no longer has any bearing on the state of the world.
      • Translation Convention doesn't quite work because they celebrate birthdays at roughly speaking annual intervals.
      • The Doom is stated to have been around 400 years before the series starts, but the seasons have been strange for millennia.
      • Though "Linked" doesn't necessarily mean "Caused by"
    • Maybe they actually do have regular seasons, but when "Winter" comes it causes summer to be shorter and much cooler, and when "Summer" comes, it causes winters to be shorter and much warmer.
    • Or they could just look at the stars. If they have similar zodiac-like constellations, it would be a small matter for the maestars to construct a calendar based on which constellation is overhead at midnight, creating a very familiar year-based unit without worrying about the seasons. Since seasons can last decades, they're a rather impractical way of measuring years.
    • Based upon the non-Westeros chapters in the books, it would appear, as many have intimated, that the strange seasonal cycles are unique to the continent of Westeros. There is no mention of the impending winter in the Slaver's Bay, for example. Given that Dany speaks with several different people about their food supply, this would certainly come up at some point if it affected them. Since Westeros was conquered and populated by invaders (three times over), they would have logically brought their own calenders with them. The current "year" is likely based upon a Valyrian Calender, which would explain why characters from Westeros and Braavos, for example, are able to compare ages. It is quite possible that the solstices occur in the other parts of the world as they would in our world.
      • Then why would anyone live in Westeros?
      • That's like asking why people in our world live in deserts, near polar regions, or places prone to earthquakes and hurricanes. Westeros appears to be at least a quarter of the habitable land in the known world, it would be highly unrealistic for no one to live there. Also, it's usually not that bad. The north is hit hardest by winter, and it is the least populated region in all of Westeros. Down in King's Landing or even Dorne, an average winter (short, not severe) probably just means "it gets a little cooler".
      • Winter is simply not as major a concern in Essos, especially Slaver's Bay, which is on the southern coast of Essos. If you look at a map with both Westeros and Essos on it, it becomes amply clear why winter is such a pressing problem mainly in Westeros. The northernmost parts of Essos – for example, Braavos and Lorath – are at the same latitude as the northern parts of the Vale or the southernmost parts of the North in Westeros. The severe North-style winters of Westeros are simply not possible in Essos. Possibly some parts of the northern hinterlands do get badly affected in winter, but these regions are sparsely populated anyway, and that too by the Dothraki, who probably just move south for winter. The southern coast – which includes Volantis, Slaver’s Bay and Qarth – most likely has a Mediterranean type climate, so winter probably makes only a nominal difference there.
    • It's been stated that the seasons weren't always messed up. The planet and various civilizations were around long enough for the old measure of a year to stick before the cataclysm that changed the seasons happened.
    • As far as I remember, the world DOES have regular seasons - I do remember one character remarking that none of the young characters have seen a true winter. The climate does change and they do have seasons (presumably normally) beyond the Great Winter/Long Summers. Methinks the Great Winter is more likely associated with the coming of the Others, who bring the chill with them, not the other way around.
    • Winter is coming to Slaver's Bay too. Towards the end of ADWD, Danys notices that the grass in the Dothraki Sea is changing color.
    • We got kinda lost with the seasons when answering the question "how do they measure years?" - ok where to start... First of all not everywhere on Earth the seasons are the same and yet we measure the years in the same way. From the ancient times we got really close with solar calendar and moon calendar giving us 10 or 12 months and a year oscillating around 365 days. This always came from sky analysis and not just counting the seasons or harvests. In fact people knew the year was a little shorter than 365,25 days over 100 years BC. The ONLY thing people of Westeros need to do to count years is to watch the sky - the moon, the sun and the stars. And if you wonder about if they actually do it or not here's the hint: Maesters forge the ring of bronze for astronomy.
    • The Qartheen believe that the dragons hatched from a second moon that wandered too close to the sun can cracked. This could be an old cataclysm remembered as a legend, and the unstability to the planet's axial tilt (and variable season lengthI could be result of the lost moon's influence permitting outside influences from resonance with other stellar objects. Or as said earlier, magic!

  • In A Game of Thrones, a group of mostly experienced rangers of the Night's Watch (including officers), find two bodies in the woods in a very strange state of non-decay: their hair pulls out easily and is brittle, their skin is milk-white, they have dried blood on their wounds and even in their veins (these are described as looking like "iron worms" and the blood as black dust.) Oh, and their eyes are blue now although they didn't used to be. But they are not rotting. This group containing experienced fighters and, presumably, hunters (all nobles hunted), notices only that last fact and stands around saying the men must have been recently killed, rather than being royally creeped out by the weird symptoms, and it is Samwell Tarly the wimp who shows his smarts by pointing these out, complete with a detailed description of the different stages of blood drying, which he knows from watching his father gut deer. Way to go Samwell and all, but seriously, does George R. R. Martin (who normally gives us so much realism) really believe that only geeks notice things? Hunters & fighters who don't notice things get killed.
    • A possible explanation is that only Sam knows what to look for - the likes of these two men have not been seen in thousands of years. The hunters and rangers may simply have all had a Weirdness Censor that Sam doesn't have because, unlike them, he knows what he is looking at.
      • But he doesn't know what he is looking at. He knows what dead deer look like. Something it's pretty likely at least one (and likely all) of these rangers would know too. Hunting wasn't a specialized hobby in times like those.
      • Expect that for Tarly the deer being gutted was a fairly traumatic event and the blood stuck in his head for the hunters the blood is just another part of it and not something they'd pick up on.
    • They have no explanation for the state of the bodies other than their having been recently killed except for Black Magic, so they rationalize.
      • Or all of them think something like: "Man, those corpses freak me out - better not to mention it cause they might laugh at me..."
      • In fact, Jon pretty well explicitly thinks (before Sam brings up the oddness) "these guys were killed by the Others and we all know it". But he represses the thought and refuses to accept it, simply because A) the Others "don't" exist and B) they really, really don't want the Others to exist. Sam, being equally scared of the dead bodies as he is of the Others, is the only one who's willing to speak up and point out what they've all been trying to ignore.

  • Something I read on the character page stuck me: Jaime frets a lot about his killing of Aerys, but one of his very first actions in the series is to try to kill an 8 year old boy. Now, I'm pretty sure, if it was brought up in the series now, he'd rightly feel like crap, but the fact he's cut up more over killing a batshit-crazy king than an innocent kid (well, attempted killing, but still) is a bit odd. What do other tropers reckon? Maybe the fact everyone keeps going on about Aerys? I dunno...
    • Jaime isn't cut up over killing Aerys. Throughout the Jaime chapters he frequently makes remarks to himself that sound like it always comes back to Aerys, but what he's upset about is not that he killed Aerys, what bothers him is that everyone treats him as though he has no honor because he is the kingslayer and no one knows or cares that his actions saved Kings Landing.
      • Sorry, you're right - I meant that he's cut up about everyone harping on about his killing of Aerys, but I wrote it wrong. It still doesn't answer though his complete dismissal of his attempted murder of a kid. That's a pretty clear indication of "no honour" if you ask me, but he hasn't even mentioned it in his POV chapters.
      • He's bothered about him killing Aerys because everybody but him thinks he did the asshole thing. He doesn't care about crippling Bran because if he hadn't, his sister and their children and he himself would have been killed. He's seen horrible things happen to women and children in war, after all, so he doesn't feel it's any different to kill a child than it is to kill a man.
      • It may also be because he sees the Aerys incident as the defining moment of his life, the one which has led to the treatment he receives and his own becoming bitter and cynical and so on. He may feel that the killing of Aerys and subsequent reaction is what eventually led to him becoming the kind of man who would toss an eight year old from a window. Even if he does think that was a terrible thing to do (one would hope he does), he probably feels he never would have done something like that if it were not for Aerys, and since he appears to be in the process of reevaluating himself since his injury, he may be choosing to focus on what he sees as the root cause of him being a murderous arsehole and not specific instances of him being so. He no doubt has plenty of other things he could fret over we haven't heard yet. Although really Jaime, I know most people would probably be disinclined to believe you at the time anyway, but maybe if people knew the exact reason you killed Aerys they would have been less derisive of you.
      • It's also worth noting that Jaime goes through a hell of a Heel/Face turn in the novels, and from memory he does express regret about Bran later on. I personally feel that the author didn't plan on Jaime being more than a Dragon
      • While it isn't an excuse for his actions, it should also be remembered that, on top of Jaime's belief that he, Cersei and their children would all be put to death if the truth was discovered (which we know would have probably been the case), Jaime himself was knighted at an uncommonly young age, and was fathered and raised by the man who ordered the deaths of Rhaegar's infant son and young daughter and then proudly presented their corpses to the new king as if they were some kind of trophy. While having a shitty father obviously doesn't absolve you of your own actions, a large part of who a person is is how they are brought up.
    • You're not taking the settings values into account- Jaime was a Kingsguard. He killed the king he was sworn to protect, and now everybody questions his honor because of it. Breaking such an important oath in this setting is a bigger deal than just killing a young boy. If Jaime hadn't been a Kingsguard, nobody would be giving him any grief over it.
    • Post Heel Face Turn, it seems like Jaime also tends to lump all of the bad things that he's done in his life together and think about them as a unit, instead of thinking about all of them separately. He doesn't mention Bran by name very often, but he seems pretty upset about the realization that if you add up all of the things that he's done in his life, most of them are either terrible or pointless. He has a great passage in ASOS where he remembers to watching his hero The Sword of the Morning kill the murderous and evil Smiling Knight, and then sits there wondering how the hell that kid who only wanted to grow up to be The Sword of the Morning wound up turning out to be the Smiling Knight instead.
  • What in god's name possessed Yoren to take BITER to the wall? Surely he would be able to tell after a couple of minutes talking to him that he probably was not exactly Night's Watch material. I mean, Rorge I can understand to a degree - a lot of unsavoury people join the Night's Watch - but... Biter!?
    • Haven't you read the Jon chapters? The Night's Watch is going to be attacked by an army composed of all the wildlings from beyond the Wall and they have absolutely no men to fight them off.If you have less than a thousand men to defend what amounts to hundreds or even thousands of miles of Wall, you're going to take anyone you can, even if they're complete sociopaths.
      • Um, did the Night's Watch know about this impending attack around the time they sent Yoren out recruiting, which would have been about half-way (or even earlier) through the first book? I was under the impression they only realised why the Wildlings were all disapearing from their villages when they spoke to Craster in A Clash of Kings. And as far as I can recall - I'll admit it's been a while since I've read AGoT - they only found out something odd was going on with the wildlings near the end of A Game of Thrones.
      • Not quite—they were already aware even around the beginning of the book that there were reports of bad things happening in the wild, including the mountain people migrating south in numbers they had never seen before, and reports had come from fisherfolk who worked the waters around Eastwatch of seeing White Walkers on the shore. So while they didn't know for certain that an assault was coming, they had plenty of reasons to be concerned about manpower.
      • Just because they didn't know an assault was imminent didn't mean they weren't aware of the problems of lack of staff.
      • They didn't know about the others but they were fully aware of Mance Rayder becoming King Beyond the Wall and bringing the wildlings together for something.
    • As a military officer cadet undergoing training, I say that the decision to recruit Biter was idiocy for a large number of reasons. Being horribly under-strength isn't reason to accept anyone into armed service. Would you rather have four relatively trustworthy men at your back, or four trustworthy men and another one who you know will try to kill you when he gets the chance? The magnitude of whatever threat you're facing should never alter the answer to that question. Anyone with half a brain could tell that Biter was untrustworthy, and would almost certainly have killed again and deserted at the first opportunity. If he had done so he would likely have cost the Night's Watch a few other men in the process, and they would have been worse off than they were before. However, while Yoren made a stupid choice, it is realistic that many people would simply take whatever resources were offered when faced with the perils of the Night's Watch. Its not as if the Night's Watch is made up of geniuses after all.
      • You seem to fail to realize that Medieval-era troops were largely not trained at all, and they basically put a sword in their hand and said "Get to it". Nowadays, we have psych evaluations and rigorous training for everyone who enters the armed services, not just officers... but back then, and even as said time and again in the books, their military policy is "If he has hands, he can hold a sword".
      • (cont'd) Plus, the world was confident that the Night's Watch wasn't doing anything, and that there was no threat beyond the wall — they had essentially become a dumping ground for criminals, a place to put some of the worst offenders far out of the way. If Westeros took the threat beyond the wall seriously, they would be sending up a lot more qualified soldiers, rather than just criminals.
      • in addition to the above, there is training period on the wall prior to taking vows. As the above poster mentioned, The Wall is a sort of dumping ground for the worst criminals. If Biter couldn't be made to work, one of the ice oubliettes at the wall would probably be better at "restraining" him than anything any castle might offer.
    • Well with guys like Biter, a good leash ought to do the trick. Other than that, every sociopath on the Wall makes adds another target to draw enemy fire away from the more important of the Night's Watch.
    • It was For Science!. Yoren was curious to find out if the Others were edible.
    • Perhaps worth mentioning; Biter worked perfectly well for the Lannisters. So long as he could be made not to bite other Crows, he would suffice.
    • It says in there somewhere that Yoren was given his pick of the royal dungeons, and the fact that he chose Biter probably gives some hint of the kind of alternatives he was offered. In a world as crapsack as Westeros where people rape, maim, kill, and torture other people on a daily basis, the King's dungeons are the baddest of the bad, and when you take the least bad of the baddest of the bad, what you get still isn't not bad in any way, if you get my meaning. I think the fact that Biter was chosen speaks volumes about how the A So Ia F world works.
    • Maybe Yoren simply wasn't interested in judging the qualifications of the recruits. After all, as we have seen, the Night's Watch accepts literally everyone. There's no such thing as not making it into the Night's Watch. Yoren was just following orders, which presumably amounted to "Get anybody who can walk and hold a sword." Any further judgements could be left to his superiors. If he had in fact made it back to the Wall in one piece, the Lord Commander would probably have taken one look at Biter and stuffed him into an ice cell.

  • I really liked A Game of Thrones, but the very end really got to me. Okay, dragons are essentially giant lizards with wings, so I'd assume they'd be classified as either birds or (probably) reptiles. So why are the dragons suckling at a human woman's breasts right after their birth, without any conditioning, when that's a distinctly mammalian thing to do? I suspect it might just be a chance to showcase Daenerys's breasts, but it's still irritating.
    • Tis a metaphor for childbirth. Maybe dragons are like platypi.
    • Perhaps the dragons of this setting are essentially giant lizards with wings and tits. Also, magic. Plus what the other guy said.
      • The Targaryens clearly have some kind of magical connection with their dragons. The fact that Dany was able to hatch dragon eggs that no one else could without being taught suggests that the normal rules of logic should be suspended in this case.
    • Maybe they're an offshoot of the warm blooded predecessors to mammals in Westeros.
    • There are allusions in the book to the strange duality between Targaryens and dragons, as if they could transform from one to the other or one could give birth to the other. The disaster at Summerhall seems to have been an attempt to birth a dragon that instead produced Rhaegar.
    • Dragons aren't lizards. Dragons aren't birds. Dragons aren't dinosaurs. Dragons are dragons. Your taxonomic categorization, ser, may go fuck itself.
      • marry me Agreed. Dragons are very obviously magical and shown to have more than one dietary quirk in common with humans.
      • Indeed. Dragons are not simply biological, although they have been implied to be essentially magical or at least elemental. Isn't it repeated throughout the series that 'dragons are fire made flesh'? It might be worthwhile ponder this is more than just poetic language.
      • Well said, ser.

  • So, why isn't Catelyn given a tougher penalty for letting Jaime go at the end of the second book? I can understand why she did it, but sacrificing her son's single most valuable prisoner in the middle of a war? Potentially endangering his life even though his well-being is the only thing ensuring her daughters' safety? The same safety which was promised by the transparently devious Tyrion Lannister? As I say, I can comprehend the purpose of her actions, but house arrest seems like a bit of a light sentence for treason, even if she is the North's equivalent of the queen mother.
    • Which is why a percentage of his army left him. It's a plot point.
    • Yes it's a vital plot point, but it also well explained in the first two Catelyn chapters of Storm of Swords. No one wants to punish the queen mother so the job gets passed up the food chain to King Robb. However, Robb decides that he needs his mother to forgive him for marrying a Westerling instead of a Frey, and it probably occurred to him that he would need her help in dealing with Walder Frey. He says he knows what it means to commit a folly for love, and with those words Catelyn knows that her pardon comes at the cost of supporting Robb's marriage.
    • A tougher penalty was implied as the norm, given Catelyn's expectations to be locked up in chains. But in addition to her her status, personal affection prevented the steward from doing so, and later on Robb used a little tit-for-tat logic to get some forgiveness of his own. It probably would've been better if Robb punished her as she'd suggested, but that's the human drama element.
    • Nitpick: Devious Tyrion may be, but he actually did intend to give Lady Catelyn her daughters back, at least as many as he could manage. The reason it couldn't work on his end is because his father forced him to marry Sansa, not due to any scheming on his own part. He didn't even want the marriage himself.
    • Whether or not Tyrion was trustworthy in general has nothing to do with whether Catelyn could trust him to trade Jaime for the girls. As she points out, Tyrion swore in open court while he was acting as Hand of the King for his father that he would return Sansa and Arya when Jaime was released. If he goes back on that, it means that the Lannister side will never be able to conduct a prisoner exchange again. Holding onto Sansa isn't worth it.
    • All reports were that Jaime had escaped, as Catelyn herself lamented. So Tyrion married Sansa. A few days later Robb and Catelyn were reported dead. The fault perhaps lies with Jaime for not pushing the matter, though he did try to make up for it later.
      • What exactly could Jaime push? By the time he got back to King’s Landing, Sansa had escaped, and half the realm was looking for her. Arya hadn’t been seen since Ned’s death several months/roughly a year ago, and the general and reasonable assumption was that she was dead. Jaime could hardly go looking for his enemies’ daughters himself. He did the only thing that he could, i.e. delegate Brienne to go look for them instead (or at least for the one who was more likely alive), give her a Valyrian steel sword, and back her up with an official document from the king.

  • I need to know this: Exactly how long has the war been going on? The official faq is saying that it has been going on for about 2 years by the time the war starts and the Red Wedding happens. However, I have recently been rereading A Storm of Swords, and in an Arya chapter she says that she made her first kill (the kid who was trying to capture her when she escaped while her father was being captured, meaning right at the beginning of the war) when she was eight. But then, there is another chapter where she is questioned on her age, and she claims she is twelve. Can someone explain this to me?
    • Nevermind, it seems I found my own answer. As it turns out, Arya was actaully 9 and a half when she made her first kill and she was almost 11 when she said she was twelve. Reading over it again, I notice that exacty wording was "'I'm twelve!' she lied loudly," so, goof on my part. Still, I guess she either forgot the exact age she was when she made her first kill, as she is thinking it to herself rather than lying to anyone outloud, which is understandable, or the author really did make a mistake there. Either way, mystery solved.
      • She exagerated how young she was when she made her first kill to seem more badass.

  • How could Littlefinger have predicted that Joffrey would actually be in range of Sansa's hair net? It was complete happenstance that he walked over to rub Tyrion's nonexistent nose in it, IIRC.
    • It didn't matter whether Joffrey got within range of Sansa's hair or not. Olenna Tyrell pulled the poison out of the net at the beginning of the feast, when she adjusted Sansa's hair.
      • And continued sitting right next to Sansa. ...Though I suppose that she could go see to Margaery at any point, and if that's a breach of decorum, then Olenna Tyrell can ruddy well get away with it. Thanks!
      • I always assumed that Littlefinger planned for Tyrion to be blamed for Joffrey's murder. He arranged the dwarf jousting to piss off Tyrion, knowing that Joffrey would take the opportunity to mock him and Tyrion wouldn't be able to resist giving a bitingly witty comeback. So, Joff gets mad, comes over to humiliate Tyrion for his insult, gets poisoned by Olenna, who sat next to Sansa for the specific purpose of framing Tyrion. It doesn't take a Magnificent Bastard on Littlefinger's level to figure out Cersei would blame Tyrion for the murder if there was the slightest possibility of him being involved.
    • He didn't need to know any of that. He just made sure Olenna Tyrell had motivation to kill Joffrey, and added the Dwarves to make sure everyone at the party got a front-row seat to Tyrion and Joffrey not liking each other. Then, he sat back and let things take their course.
    • Or, alternatively, it wasn't really Littlefinger's plan, and huge chunks of the story that he told Sansa were utter B.S. Remember, he told Sansa that he had masterminded the whole plan to kill Joffrey for literally no reason right after he told her that he'd doinked her mom, which was definitely not true.
      • It's implied that he was so doped up/injured that he thought Lyssa was Catelyn, which means he isn't lying, he's just delusional.
      • Okay, yes, that's possible. Considering how obsessed Lysa was with that night, though, it would be pretty odd if she never talked about it afterwards - especially considering all of the unpleasantness that followed it. More to the point, though, his explanation to Sansa of Joffrey's murder was pretty much, "Oh, yeah, that? I totally did it. No, I didn't have any reason. I just felt like it." I mean, that barely sounds like he's trying. To accept an explanation like that, you'd have to be someone like... well, someone like Sansa.
    • I actually don't think it's all that unreasonable for Littlefinger to have figured that Joffrey would go over to Tyrion when you consider that Littlefinger's specialty is making people do exactly what he wants while them still thinking that they are in control. Littlefinger did come up with the idea of the tilting dwarves and I'm willing to believe that Littlefinger planted some seed into Joffrey's head to make him demand that Tyrion tilt with them, or perhaps he just knew that Joff would do that (he's vile but very predictable in many ways). Littlefinger also knows that Tyrion would completely refuse and that would piss off Joff, who'd end up yelling at Tyrion, providing the perfect distraction while Olenna slips the amethyst into whatever beverage container Joff is holding at the time.
    • And why exactly would Olenna choose then to assassinate her son in law? Wouldn't it be better to allow Margery to get pregnant with Joffrey's (or supposedly Joffrey's) child and then kill him? Granted it would mean Margaery having to put up with marriage to a psychopath, but she seemed to be enough of a political operator to put up with him for a few months at least (and it's clear Joffrey can contain himself to some extent if he sees that there are political reasons to do so). It would also have avoided all the trouble with Cersei trying to expose her infidelity - of course she wasn't a virgin, she was married to Joffrey for x months!
      • Timing. Olenna had no reason to trust the safety of her granddaughter to the whims of an adolescent sociopath, since even if she was willing to risk it, one incident, and the hot-blooded Loras Tyrell would be replicating the deeds of the Kingslayer. Not very good for anyone involved. Do it during the wedding, and you can pin it on... well, basically anyone. Their entire court was at that wedding. Do it anywhere else... well, that would have been a mite bit more suspicious.
      • So do it at the kid's Christening (or whatever they call it in Westeros)- don't tell me there won't be a feast to celebrate that. Yes, it means being married to Joffrey for a year (or thereabouts) but since Olenna seems to be a female version of Tywin, shouldn't she just go "Suck it up, bitch!" (or words to that effect) to Margery's complaints (although Margery seems at least moderately successful at controlling Joffrey). Once she's pregnant, she's the mother of the next King/Queen and in position to become the next Cersei. And while she does go on to become the wife of Tommen, marriage to a boy King is chancy in that Tommen might turn out to be the next Edward V or VI (of England) and never reach his majority. Joffrey, for all his many faults, is (presumably) already capable of fathering children.
      • I am less willing than you to believe that Olenna would have allowed Margaery to be married to Joffrey for that long. Joffrey is a monster and she killed him specifically so that he couldn't hurt her granddaughter. She may be a master schemer, but I never saw her as cold, at least not in regards to her own beloved granddaughter.
      • Again, Loras Tyrell would have stabbed the King if he did anything during said intervening year, such a feast would not have had the entire court in attendance, (the wedding was a diplomatic bridge for the new alliance as well as a royal wedding), and during the intervening year Joffrey might continue to do absurd, stupid shit like he did when he cut off Ned Stark's head on a whim. Not worth the diplomatic risk for anyone involved.
      • We're not party to the circumstances of the planning of Joffrey's assassination, since no POV character was involved in it. Could it not be that Littlefinger insisted on the timetable for some reason or another (maybe even so he could pull out Sansa in the confused aftermath)?
      • There's also the fact that after the Royal Wedding the Tyrells would be expected to return to High Garden/the battle field. Mace is supposed to take his forces to capture Storm's End. Oleana might be able to hang around the court longer - she's a dowager and has no responsibilities requiring her to leave - but it's far wiser for her to act now when they've got the protection of a city crawling with armed Tyrell forces, just in case things go ass over tea kettle.
  • Why are all the leaders constantly riding stallions in to battle or tourney!? It makes no tactical sense. In a cavalry setting, you're automatically riding with a mixed bag of horses. What if someone's mare goes into heat on the battle field? Also, you'd think one of the cunning generals would have realized that if they want their enemy's leader(s) they should start riding nimble, female horses and lead them off. It seems that only Ser Loras ever thought about that.
    • Up until the 1800s, stallions were considered by all to be the only manly way to ride into battle. Mares were considered frail, feminine creatures not fit for a true warrior, and geldings were a reflection of that, although sometimes used as transportation rather than warhorses. Even into the twentieth century, though, high-ranking officers were expected to ride stallions, which were harder to handle while riding, as a symbol of their stature. Seeing as geldings did make appearances as warhorses in other parts of the stories, I don't think it's too far-fetched to assume that GRRM was playing on those same presumptions for his characters' mounts.
    • The above is correct, stallions were often regarded as 'superior' horses in the same way that swords were often considered 'superior' weapons, because they were simply thought to be more manly/noble/etc. Tactical knowledge was often lacking during the medieval era, as can be seen in many of Europe's most famous historical battles.
    • Not only that, but the OP actually is brought up has having occurred in the first book. It was actually considered a dirty trick since it maddened the other horse.
    • It also works as another layer of commentary, as, for example, Sen Bonifer Hasty ("the Good") has all the men under his command ride geldings instead of stallions. Presumably he noticed that they are easier to discipline than stallions. At the same time, he accepts little plundering and no rapes from the men under his command—their reputation is so sterling that people joke he gelds his men as well as his horses, as if not raping people is something unmanly.
  • At the end of one of the Daenerys' viewpoint chapters (in Game of Thrones), Khal Drogo is apparently very gentle, at least to his new wife. And then in the following one, he would "...ride her relentlessly as he rode his stallion." Which is it?
    • Yes. No, seriously, why can it only be one or the other? Most people don't confine themselves strictly to gentle sex or rough sex; they go back and forth, depending on their moods. Khal Drogo's preference for horsie-style isn't surprising, considering the emphasis on Testosterone Poisoning in Dothraki culture, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a sensitive side, just that he's not likely to show it. Besides, it's an important moment of Character Development for both Dany and Drogo, showing that there is potential for love and affection in this Arranged Marriage.
    • It's both... sequentially. The first time, Dany is very scared and doesn't know Drogo at all. Drogo can see that she's uncertain and terrified, so he asks her if it's okay, and is gentle. Afterward, he figures she's seen that it's not so bad, he can just take his rights. He doesn't think that she might just be saying yes for her brother's sake, and he doesn't think it might be a matter of the sex itself, just that she's nervous about her first time.
    • Also consider that sometimes they have sex in view of the entire khalasar. Drogo is essentially saying, "Yeah, you WISH you were this manly." So, he's not going to be gentle there.
    • Khal Drogo is the embodiment of manliness and as such he is able to read his wife's inexperience the first time they have sex. Then, he tries to amp things up, and other times he is gentle. If he were really that bad, Dany wouldn't have loved him, which she does, because Drogo is a wild stallion who is able to be gentle with her when he needs to be. He doesn't have to be one or the other; he acts the way he wants with his wife unless the situation demands differently. "Gentle without strength is just wimp." (Davide Shade)

  • How exactly do the ravens know where to go?
    • It is mentioned that when people are transporting goods to different cities they often have a cage or more of ravens with them. These ravens would then home to the location that they originated from. So, if you were sending a letter from Sunspear to King's Landing, you'd send a King's Landing bird back to its home with the message. You'd then need to be resupplied with birds from King's Landing. The only way to explain the white ravens is that each city raises a white raven for Oldtown then carries it there, or the white ravens are just damn smart.
    • Clever Crows (and other corvids, such as ravens) are pretty damn smart birds. If pigeons can figure it out, they certainly can.
    • That's not a sufficient answer. (I'm not the original question-asking-person—what do you call that, by the way?) Carrier pigeons are raised in the location they fly to, and only fly to that one location. They need to be carried by someone else to wherever they're going to leave from. The possibilities for the ravens are: A. One fixed route; B. Two or more fixed routes; or C. The ability to synthesize new routes. Evidence for A would be the two cages of ravens that Sam releases— the Shadow Tower cage and the Castle Black cage. That indicates that the ravens function like homing pigeons. Then again, when Stannis is going all-out on his propaganda, he sends out 117 ravens everywhere, without duplicates (if there were duplicates, then it would be only fifty-eight and one half destinations, and in that case, there would be significantly less thorough coverage than Stannis wants). Whereas when Tyrion sends a letter to Dorne, it doesn't raise any alarms that he wants it sent by two ravens, and Pycelle doesn't object that they don't have two Sunspear ravens (not that he actually sends them both out, but...), indicating that either the Red Keep is more amply provisioned than Dragonstone (quite plausible) or the ravens can be directed to go different places. (Or that Stannis doesn't want to waste birds in case he needs to send more messages.) The only thing that I would think indicates that the ravens can synthesize new routes is the white ravens. They are said to be more intelligent than ordinary ravens, though. Intelligent enough to read maps? Maybe not. But maybe they follow an ordinary raven, and that part's not mentioned.
    • The original question-asking-person is usually called the original poster or OP, FYI (at least on most sites/boards). As to the matter at hand, I think we're just meant to take it that these ravens are smarter than the average bird (perhaps something like dog-smart or maybe even dolphin-smart). The fact that they can learn to recite a few words, which real-world ravens cannot do, may be meant to showcase this. They even seem to be aware of what the words mean on a basic level, such as Mormont's raven begging for corn, or Sam's ravens saying "Snow" before a snowstorm (could be wrong about that one). Of course, what would be involved in training and using such birds is beyond me.
      • Real-world ravens can mimic human speech, FYI.
    • It's magic. The raven system could not work as well as it is described in the book. The logistics are impossible. I'm afraid you'll just have to suspend your disbelief on this one.
    • Maybe the ravens of the ASOIAF world are smarter than ours.
    • A story is mentioned of how the Crone brought the first ravens to Westeros, and with all the warging and fire-related magic going on, the Seven seem a bit left out on the miracle front - maybe this is their contribution?
    • A Dance With Dragons fields this; apparently, pretty much every raven in Westeros either contains the second life of a skinchanger or has its intelligence boosted by being ridden frequently by them. The tradition of using ravens as messangers goes back to the time when the First Men frequently interacted with the children of the forest; skinchangers and greenseers would ride ravens and use them to convey messages (actually speaking them upon arrival). While the techniques to control the ravens have been forgotten, the tradition of using them for messages remains (with maesters probably just assuming that ravens have the intelligence to know where to go).
    • When the Watch went beyond the wall and Sam was in charge of the ravens they made mention that the ravens were separated by cages. It was indicated that each cage contained ravens that knew how to get to a particular location. It seems like they keep ravens that go between two locations.
    • The preview chapter of Winds of Winter actually gives a detailed bit of exposition on this point. Most ravens are trained to fly to one location like real world pigeons; some to fly back and forth between two, and a very few especially smart ones can recognise destinations by name. The thing about all ravens being used to warging with people I believe was only a reference to the ones that live in Bloodraven's cave.

  • Has Dany ever considered how she plans on making a long lasting new dynasty if she can't have children?
    • Who says she cares? And anyway, it's not like the person who told her she can't have children was entirely trustworthy, or all-knowing.
      • If Jon Snow turns out to be her nephew, he would be her natural heir. Or if he isn't actually of Targaryen blood, there are other ways to create a line of succession other than heredity. Dany could set up some kind of apprenticeship dynasty, taking in a worthy child and raising him/her to be her adopted heir. Or have an elected monarchy like in Poland and the Holy Roman Empire. Or if you like a rather whimsical solution, she could set up a constitutional republic and be done with the horrible excesses of aristocracy.
      • If Jon Snow turns out to be her Trueborn nephew, then he would become King automatically, as he has a stronger claim to the Throne than Dany. If he was still a bastard, but she intended for him to carry on the Targaryen dynasty, then he has to have his baseborn status removed, in which case he automatically becomes the rightful King over her (by being the heir of the last heir). The most sensible solution would be for Jon and Dany to marry and rule together, but Jon could have a polygamous marriage to a second wife (which the Targaryens did practice) in order to conceive heirs.
      • There is no situation where Jon would "automatically" become king without being placed in a line of succession first and then inheriting the throne. He's not a contender in his own right, and if he does prove to be Dany's nephew or Aegon's brother his claim is wholly dependent on her army and dragons winning the throne back in the first place. Marriage or co-rule is still in the cards, but no matter how much Westeros loves male-preference primogeniture, no one is going to say "Great job winning the war Dany! Now step aside for this nephew you didn't know you had because he's a boy and so his claim is better." She'd feed them to a dragon.
    • Considering her age (fifteen), she seems to lack the maturity to fully understand what it means to rule. Until the end of A Storm of Swords, her plan was to reclaim Westeros in the name of her family as soon as she could, and that was pretty much all the detail there was to that plan. No thought of what she'd do then or why she really should. If I remember correctly, she didn't even think about opposition until it was pointed out to her. And it wasn't until after she had conquered three cities and saw that the first two could not keep their peace that she realized some of the consequences to her actions. It looks like she may mature a bit more now that she's taken a break from warring to actually rule these cities. However, she still shows signs that she's a teenage girl in that, when thinking about who could be one of the other two 'dragon heads', she fancies choosing a handsome, flirtatious man rather than someone better qualified to help her rule, which leads to another point regarding Dany and possible heirs...
    • She has three dragons, and a Targaryen saying goes "the dragon has three heads". Since the dragons hatched, she's thought about who could be worthy enough to ride the other two. It's possible that she thinks that one or both of these people will be her heir in name rather than blood. But, really, I think it's that she's still too immature to have thought things through.
    • This all assumes that she truly is barren forever, which is by no means definitely true. From her perspective, I suspect she figures it's something she'll deal with when the time comes (but she has more pressing problems now); from an external perspective I doubt she's actually barren.
  • This is also assuming that she can't adopt and legitimise a child, or nominate an heir; this sort of thing happens in the real world to ruling monarchs without children, and assuming her plan succeeds and she becomes queen, who's going to argue with her? She gets to make the laws.

  • All the noble houses seem to have disproportionately more sons than daughters. As just one example, Walder Frey has 22 sons and just 7 daughters.
    • Many might have already married off or sold their daughters to other houses at younger ages, while the boys have more time to grow.

  • Speaking of The Late Lord Frey...why, why, would any sane monarch leave such a strategic stronghold in any hands but those of the throne itself? When the Targaryens had their dragons, they could have told the Freys: "Okay, fun's over... we're taking this castle (the Twins) over in the name of the kingdom. We'll give you other castles, but this one we have to hold." If that castle had been held by the Targaryens themselves, Robert Baratheon's revolt would have been nipped in the bud, or at least confined to the north until the Targaryens could mount a really good counter-attack (possibly after arranging an accident for Mad King Aerys.)
    • Because they had Dragons. Fiery death machines that could fly over the land without any trouble at all. Dragons could literally take out entire armies, so there was no need to keep the twins for safety measures.
    • They were too busy holding the Red Keep (citadel for what seems to be the largest city and a major port) and Dragonstone directly. They wouldn't have been too worried about any fortresses while they had dragons, and arbitrarily revoking titles wouldn't make them popular. So long as they could make like Harrenhall and melt fortresses they wouldn't need to upset everyone like that, and afterward they wouldn't dare.
    • Another idea: Are the Twins really that strategically valuable at all? A quick look at this enormous and beautiful map of Westeros shows that the Twins are off to the side, west of the Kingsroad and bridging the Green Fork river of the Trident. Presumably, the Green Fork is very difficult to cross, which makes the rare crossings like the Twins very valuable property as far as charging tolls and the like. But as it happened, the Jaime Lannister's army was west of the Twins, in the Whispering Woods, while Robb's army was east. Using the Twins' Crossing was the only way Robb's army could catch up with him, and from a direction the Kingslayer wouldn't suspect. So in this one instance, the Late Lord Frey knew he had Robb over a barrel and squeezed him for everything he was worth for permission to ford his army. On the other hand, the most valuable real estate in the North would be Moat Cailin, which stands directly on the northern Kingsroad and along a very narrow and highly defensible isthmus. When tensions flared, the first thing Eddard Stark did was dispatch 200 archers to Moat Cailin, confident that that would be enough to hold off almost any force the Lannisters (or even the Crown) could raise on short notice.
      • Rivers are very, very big and often quite difficult to cross. Also, traveling on a river is faster than travel by foot or horse. Fords and other river crossings have always been vigorously sought and defended throughout history. So the Twins is a river crossing on a very important river. Further, it's a stronghold in the middle of a narrow stretch of land, meaning that it has strategic importance as a place that can manipulate the entire region. Finally, being on the river itself means that it has easy access to resupply, making it difficult to besiege. A castle is never just a castle, it's like an aircraft carrier; it projects force a distance from itself and you ignore it at your peril.
    • Why? Let's take a page from Dune, which has a similar social structure to Westeros. Remember why it's a big deal that House Harkonnen has Sardaukar support when they retake Arrakis? Because every noble house fears the Sardaukar being unleashed on them. They know they can't stand against the Sardaukar on their own, which is why they banded together (as "the Landsraad") for mutual protection. The same is true in Westeros... except this time in the other direction because the Targaryens don't have Elite Mooks, and haven't had dragons for a century either. If King Aerys (or whoever) just arbitrarily declares, "I'm removing Walder Frey from his ancestral seat at The Twins," he not only has to remove Lord Frey (by force), but he risks every lord in Westeros saying, "Uh-oh, that could be me," and, say, declaring a rebellion. How many high lords does it take to screw a new king into the Iron Throne? When the king was Robert, it only took four.
    • To answer the original question: because it's a feudal system. Functionally, it isn't "in the hands of the throne itself" unless you decide to park the throne on it and govern directly. By the conventions of the land, removing the Freys and placing a new vassel to control the Twins just means that you've got exactly the same situation, except the names are different. For all the effort it takes, you might as well leave the Freys so long as they are loyal because otherwise, unless you wipe them out comletely, you're going to create unnecessary aristocratic tensions between the Freys and the new guys for generations (like what happened in the Reach, which was much more relevent to control because it was a breadbasket, and because the original owners didn't yield).
    • I think you're looking at this backwards - it's implied that the reason Frey can get away with being so backstabby in the first place is the fact that he holds such an important territory. He has a very defensible and valuable location, but not much military force, so he goes in for treachery in the confidence that no-one will want to call him out on it.
    • Look at it this way- let's say that at some point in the past the Targaryens had made The Twins part of the throne's direct holdings. Of course, the king is in King's Landing, so he'd have to send one of his relatives to rule it. Now, I seem to remember lesser Targaryen siblings having this problem with rebelling...
    • And it's an ongoing theme in the series that even those characters with armies at their beck and call have to make political compromises with people they may not entirely trust. Having dragons enabled the Targaryens to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, but to rule it they needed to parcel out the goodies to their lesser vassals, else they'd do nothing but fly around Westeros all the time trying to stamp out dissent. Someone has to gather the taxes and harvests for you, so you need lesser lords whose loyalty you can buy through putting them in a position where they can make themselves wealthy — the gold mines of Casterly Rock, the toll bridge at the Twins, the vineyards of the Arbor and the fertile lands of the Reach.
    • It also should be noted that the Targaryens did seem to think of the Freys as trusted vassals. Remember, the Freys only joined the rebellion when it became obvious that the Targaryens would lose and a number of the Frey children bear Targaryen names (Aenys, Aegon, Rhaegar), suggesting that they did have a connection to the Targaryen house, though probably not a blood one.
    • Because in a world without instant communicatons (although the raven system seems implausibly efficient), you need to leave somebody in charge wherever you're not. They need to be people whose interests align with your own. This is where Tywin was awesome (and Cersei was not) - nobody may have loved Tywin, but everyone knew it was dangerous to go against him (and the Red Wedding was Tywin's idea, not Lord Frey's, we are to believe). Cersei cannot trust anyone and so wanted weak people in authority so she could control them easily - unfortunately, that generally means they were also pretty useless in their actual jobs.

  • So, counting the above discussion, particularly the last point. What makes the Eyrie such a valuable castle? Since it has no force projection, as it does not have a garrison, and is very difficult to enter or exit even if you're welcome. The only benefit of it, is that cannot be sieged, since it can't be starved out, and storming it is nigh impossible. The defense of the Vale seems to most be important at the Bloody Gate, so why waste men defending a castle that cannot be assaulted?
    • Because it's pretty much immune to being conquered, and it's the regional capital. It's easy to bottle an army up in it, but the war isn't over until you actually conquer it. The Bloody Gate is also important because of its strategic location, but to actually hold the Vale in any security you need to dig the Arryns out of the Eyrie. If it weren't the capital, an invader could simply build another castle at the foot of the mountain and wait until they convinced someone to give them the order to surrender, but it is the capital. In short, it's important for reasons unrelated to strategic value, and also is nearly impossible to take.
    • And, for the entire duration of the series so far, the Lord of the Eyrie and Protector of the Vale by hereditary descent (i.e., Robert Arryn), has been holed up in it. Short of abandoning feudal inheritance rules, which would require a royal decree, any challenger would have to kill Robert first, and because the Eyrie is immune to conquest, they can't do it by force. It's made fairly clear in the AFFC scene where Littlefinger meets with the other Lords who want to take Robert out of the Eyrie—if Littlefinger lets Robert out of the Eyrie, his control over it becomes worthless and no one will care about his claim to the Vale.

  • Why does the watch use Shadow Tower instead of Westwatch-by-the-bridge? Shouldn't they use the castle that best guards the edge of the wall next to milkwater river?
    • Most probably the castle fell into disrepair and the watch had too few men to fix it. Maybe they abandoned Westwatch-by-the-bridge for the same reason they abandoned the Nightfort. Knowing Martin we'll probably get an official explanation sooner or later.
    • Also, tradition? Castle Black is effectively their "capital", so maybe hey just never got around to moving. Also, Eastwatch is important for supply reasons, so maybe they want their commander placed equidistant from the other two.
    • They do use it. It's stated in the tabletop RPG's Night Watch (for what that's worth) sourcebook that it's a towerhouse above the bridge that spans the Gorge, and only houses a dozen men, who are rotated in and out by the main garrison at the Shadow Tower. It's only a "castle" in the same sense that Sky in the Vale is a "castle", and isn't even on the Wall to begin with- it's a fortification on the natural border provided by the Gorge.

  • Do most people in the seven kingdoms just not get the concept of a direwolf? There's an absurdly large number of instances where people seriously antagonize or threaten the Stark children without seeming to realize that their direwolves are right there. It makes sense when they're relatively small, but Ghost's eyes are level with Tyrion's chest before Eddard even reaches King's Landing and Summer has killed someone.
    • Honor Before Reason.
    • Or maybe Bullying a Dragon is a traditional passtime.
    • I don't think they'd go and antagonise a wild direwolf, but a tamed one following obediently (usually) at its owner's heels would likely be perceived as a somewhat exotic dog. They were all well trained apart from Shaggydog, and I don't recall anyone ever being blasé about him.
    • Also, if any of the Stark children ordered their wolves to attack someone they'd probably get charged with assault (or the Westeros equivalent). Just because you happen to have a gun doesn't mean you can shoot anyone who insults you, to make a modern comparison. Just remember what happened to Lady...

  • So everyone in the book keeps going on on how Valyrian steel is very rare, and there's very little of it left in the world. But Ned Stark has one, Jon Snow has one, and very early in the book someone attempts an assassination with a dagger of Valyrian steel that was cheap enough to be given away in a bet... and STILL Tyrion has to remark on how unusual it is when the King's Father wants to give a sword of Valyrian steel to the upcoming king for his coronation??? Shouldn't the king's armory have most of the steel that's left in the world anyway? Shouldn't King Robert have had a few Valyrian steel swords his son could inherit?.
    • Ned's and Jon's both belongs to the heads of some of the most powerful houses in Westeros (Stark and Mormont respectively). Your clearly not far enough in the book to know this, but the dagger was given away by a very wealthy person, and that is actually a hint on who could have possibly done it. And even if the king does have some valyrian steel stowed away, for Tywin, it was a matter of pride that Joffrey had one from the Lannister line, rather than just from the Baratheons.
      • The Valyrian steel in the Oathkeeper and Widow's Wail both come from Ice. The steel is often recycled by maesters that are able to work it.
      • Also, it was in a bet between the King's Master of Coin and one of Tywin Lannister's children. So, in other words, two of the richest men in the Seven Kingdoms.
    • The Lannisters had lost their own Valyrian steel sword generations before in Valyria. At least one attempt was made in recent generations to recover it, unsuccessfully.
    • Tywin had also tried to buy the ancestral Valyrian weapons of lesser, impoverished houses, who would gladly have married a son or a daughter to one of his house, but whereas there are more kids every time you look, it seems there are fewer and fewer Valyrian steel swords in the world with every passing year...
    • "a dagger of Valyrian steel that was cheap enough to be given away in a bet" Yeah, because nobody ever put up expensive things (or lots of money) in a bet. Next thing you know, you'll be telling me that there are gambling tournaments with multi-million dollar pots or something...
      • And considering that the bet in question was between the Master of Coin and the King, yeah, I can believe that they'd bet priceless weapons. It's the equivalent of two multimillionaire playboys betting a yacht or something in a high stakes poker game.
    • Also, a dagger is not a sword—you're talking about a much smaller amount of steel, and something that is basically a sidearm, not a weapon of war, making it likely an order of magnitude less valuable both in real life, and in terms of prestige.
    • The dagger from the start of the book was probably given away without it's rarity being known. The character in question is also not known for being very smart, so they wouldn't have known the implications of giving it away.

  • How, exactly, does Ned figure out that Jaime is the father of the royal children? I can see how he discovered that they were not Robert's, all Baratheon-Lannister unions having Baratheon looks. But to immediately jump to that conclusion? I mean, it may well be that he was just guessing based on his dislike and then Cersei admitted it, but I don't quite see that last bit of the jump. why didn't he guess it was a stable boy, or some random kitchen staff? Why Jaime?
    • It's more than just that. There are other clues as well. First of all, Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen all look like Lannisters, so the idea of Cersei having an affair with a non-Lannister seems questionable. Then, there was Bran's fall. Ned suspected the Lannisters were behind it and Bran saw something that he shouldn't have seen. Conveniently, Jaime was one of the only men who hadn't gone hunting that day. Third, Ned knew as well as anyone that Cersei and Jaime were very close and that as a member of the Kingsguard, he'd have plenty of excuses to spend time around her. Finally, there's Jon Arryn's mysterious death (that Lysa claimed the Lannisters were also responsible for) and Stannis' departure from King's Landing... Put that all together, and it becomes apparent that something very wrong was going on.
      • OP here. Some of that does help, like Jaime not being out hunting, but the "non-Lannister partner" thing was actually one of the unsettling points. If every time a Lannister married the children looked like the other party, how could theirs be the typical Lannister appearance? This definitely does alleviate my head-scratching, but for whatever reason I still feel like a tiny note is missing.
      • First off: it's not that "Lannister + [other party] = kids that automatically look like [other party]"; it's that, in Westeros as on Earth, pale-hair genes are recessive to darker ones; black trumps brown trumps gold trumps red. (Where the Targaryen coloring would fall on this scale is unknown, but presumably they're way down at the recessive end, which is why Aegon used Brother-Sister Incest to "keep the bloodline pure".) Also, the Lannisters are an old family, and probably marry from within the Westerlands most of the time, where their influence (both political and genetic) has had 8,000 years to percolate. To keep the "Lannister look," Report Siht Lannister needs a blonde wife... which are likely are likely a dime a dozen 'round Lannisport and Casterly Rock. And, if that's not good enough, do what Tywin did and marry your cousin.
      • Indeed. Early in the second book Tyrion ponders on the connection himself and notes that Cersei would have been able to keep this truth hidden if only she'd borne Robert one child (note that all Robert's bastard children had his hair), before simply concluding that if she'd done that, she "wouldn't be Cersei". All the factors added up and the smarter characters came to the logical - and true - conclusion.
      • To explain further, in order for a child of Cersei (pure recessive blond) and Robert (dominant black) to come out blond, it would mean that Robert would have to carry the recessive trait, even though it was suppressed. That would mean that not only should at least some of his bastards be blond, but the odds of ALL THREE of his legal kids being blond was highly unlikely (with only a 25% of any given child being blond, the odds of all three being blond is around 1.6%, about 1-in-64). But with EVERY SINGLE BASTARD he produced coming out dark, it argued in favor of him actually having full dominant dark hair, meaning no true born child of his would EVER come out blond. Westerosi obviously don't know the literal science behind figuring that sort of thing out, but they likely know enough from circumstantial experience to puzzle out that something's up.
      • It's also mentioned at least a couple times that the Lannister family's relatives, descendants, and cadet branches are all over the westerlands including an entire other branch of the family running Lannisport, making golden hair quite common in those parts.
      • Also, it may well be that Ned had help coming to that conclusion - it is fairly heavily implied that a lot of House Lannister at least have suspicions (Tyrion has known for years and Kevan hints to Cersei that he does). It is even more heavily implied that Varys and Littlefinger already knew.
    • And let's not forget that Ned has one huge factor in his favour — Jon Arryn had already done the legwork (quite possibly with more bases for suspicion than we become aware of). Who knows if he would have been able to put it together himself, but he was guided by the question "What did Jon Arryn think he knew?" It needed to be something big and damning, something a person might kill to protect. Once he realizes that it concerns lineage and the king's offspring, it doesn't take a genius.
    • To answer the question of "How Ned figured out Jamie was the father" as opposed to "How Ned figured out Robert was not the father", it's possible that after he figured out Robert was raising someone else's kids he sat down, mentally took note of what he knew about Cersei, and ran through a list of likely candidates. Who does she spend time with? Who does she trust? Its possible he had a eureka moment where he recalled seeing some innocuous action between two people that gives you that feeling that "Hey, those two are fucking!" between Jamie and Cersei that he had previously written off because they were twins. How much Joff looked like Jamie might have helped clue him in, too, not that that means a whole lot given that Jamie and Cersei are twins.
      • This is kinda backed up by hints in later books that Jaime and Cersei weren't nearly as discreet or subtle as they should have been or thought they were. Tyrion knew the whole time. Varys, Littlefinger, and Pycelle all knew. Kevan, if he didn't know from the start, apparently suspects that it's true after Stannis declares it publicly, which would suggest that there's something about their behavior together that does give the impression of two people in a sexual relationship that others might write off because they're twins. And of course, Stannis of all people was apparently the first person outside of the Lannisters to figure it out; he claims to Renly and Catlyn that he had gone to Jon Arryn with his suspicions and that was the reason Jon had been investigating it in the first place. Stannis doesn't elaborate on what tipped him off, but one would think it would be something fairly obvious, given the difficulty Stannis has in relating to other people. They're really just lucky that Robert was too drunk to notice and that their father was too busy trying to see what he wanted his children to be that he couldn't see what they were.
      • I also want to point out that when Eddard was studying the outrageously dull book with the Lannister lineage described, he notes that the recessive blonde hair is present in every Lannister child for many generations back, even when they were married outside the family. That is, all Lannisters are the offspring of incestuous cheating. That's how there can be a "Lannister look," they never have any outside blood.
      • Not only would that not prove they're all incest babies, that is the opposite of what the book says. It's explicitly pointed out that all the children of Lannister/Baratheon pairings have the Baratheon look; black hair, blue eyes. Doesn't really get into the other Lannister pairings. If that were what the book said, it would actually be strong evidence for the kids being legit; Westeros doesn't have the science to know about dominant and recessive genes. Only that some traits show up more often than others. Ned would simply assume that Lannister traits were dominant over other families, not that the Lannisters were getting Targaryan behind their spouses' backs.
      • The Lannisters can't be solely based on incest - leaving aside that they would mostly be horrifically deformed, Tyrion makes it clear that he views Cersei's and Jaime's relationship with distaste, which would make no sense if they were all incestuous. Kevan also hints that he knows to Cersei, which again would make no sense if all of them were incestuous. Also, Kevan is married to Dorna Swyft, and in his fatal POV chapter before he dies, makes it clear she is the real mother of his kids and that he loves her deeply.
      • Horrifically deformed? You mean, like a crippled dwarf with heterochromia? ;) Jokes aside, Ned knows that Jaime and Cersei are close (them being twins and all). Maybe their children has some trait that makes them look really similar to Jaime (remember, he and Cersei are not identical twins, since they're brother and sister) and that with the other evidence makes Ned draw the right conclusion. Also, any civilization that knows how to breed animal knows about dominant and recessive traits. They don't have to know about genes to know about breeding.
    • It should be noted that Ned doesn't know for certain that Jaime and Cersei are lovers until Cersei herself admits it. He makes a guess, judging by the fact that all her children have beautiful Lannister hair and that Cersei and her brother seem unusually close, but he isn't 100% until he says to Cersei, "Your brother...or your lover?"
    • It should also be noted that the incestuous nature of Joffrey's parentage isn't really the important point in all of this. It wouldn't matter if Cersei had birthed children by Jaime or anybody else. What makes it such a huge deal is not who the royal childrens' father really is, but who he really isn't. Illegitimate royal children would be certain to cause a succession crisis, and almost certain war between the Lannisters and the rightful Baratheon heirs, and that is exactly what ends up happening. What is important to Ned is the fact that Cersei bore another man's children. The fact that the father is her own brother, while majorly icky, is kind of beside the point.

  • What is with the fanbase's love for Littlefinger? Seriously, he's a creepy prick whose total accomplishments so far have been switching sides a lot, and trying to pull off a little Wife Husbandry. Ooh. How magnificent.
    • Because he essentially turned the internal politics of an entire continent on its head with apparently very little effort. It's the equivalent of him convincing every single nation in South America to declare war on each other, while at the same time getting rewarded by every single said nation for his supposed "help" in their cause.
    • Look, everything currently happening in Westeros in political terms can be traced back to three organizations: Nebulous Targaryen Conspiracy, the Red Priests, and Littlefinger. Everyone else is reacting to their movements, although some of them are providing unexpected reactions. Littlefinger set up the entire chain of events leading up to the death of Ned, including inducing him to come south after Jon Arryn got offed by Lysa at Littlefinger's instructions. He's also become the ruler of one of the Seven Kingdoms, and technically the Lord of Harrenhall.
      • Littlefinger's accomplishments would have looked a lot more impressive if 2/3rds of his big successes weren't achieved by fucking an ugly woman who was crazy enough to think he loves her. Moreover, Littlefinger is just like Freys and Boltons in that the means he uses to gain short-term advantages inevitably create a precarious situation from him in the long term. His rise of power and titles is predicated on chaos in the country, but said chaos also means that titles or even wealth lose value compared to having loyal men with swords at one's command, something which Littlefinger really lacks. He's more competent than Freys or Boltons, so his position is not falling apart yet, but it is inherently unstable. Whomever secures the Iron Throne safely is almost inevitably going to move against Littlefinger, because he grabbed way too much, revealed his ambitions way too clearly, but lacks power to protect what he theoretically owns.
      • Uh, no. Littlefinger's advantage is that, unlike most of the other players, he has kept most of his moves a secret. As far as the characters in the book know, he's a clever man without a proper household who has been perfectly loyal to the Lannisters, and has been given a cursed castle in return. He's also incredibly useful as a master of coin. He's currently residing in a place that has been, so far, kept out of the war. Littlefinger *hasn't* revealed his ambitions, beyond seemingly obvious ones that wouldn't raise anybody's eyebrow. As long as he kneels to whoever becomes king, there's no reason to go after him. He hasn't made any claim on the Vale (He's going to let it pass to Harry the Heir when Lil' Robert dies) and Harrenhal had been abandoned before the war. Riverrun, Winterfell, the Twins, and possibly a dozen other properties will be much, much bigger issues to deal with if the crown flips. Littlefinger won't be given a second thought.
      • In the books proper, he hasn't really revealed any of his ambitions. Sure, to the reader it's clear he's got big plans, but to the characters in the book he's more or less retreated to the Eyrie. Its unlikely anyone would move against him, because for starters no one really wastes much time thinking about him. As far as the Iron Throne would be concerned, they'd have much more legitimate concerns. He knows his position is shaky - most of aFfC was him working damn hard to cement it and setting up his plans for the future. And he's significently more competent than the Boltons or Greyjoys when you consider, while they have families following their rule by virtue of their blood, he has nothing other than a sly wit and...pretty sociopathic nature (and money). So while he's hardly likeable (he's a psycho creepy douche), he's damn impressive.
      • Only Sansa knows the depth of what Littlefinger is capable. She could be his biggest risk. Of the other characters, only Tyrion suspects Littlefinger is more than he seems (well, Varys probably knows a lot, like he does about everything).
    • Now that the TV show has aired I expect some of the love of Littlefinger comes down to two words: Aidan. Gillen.
    • Draco in Leather Pants. That's about it. Really, personality-wise he's much more of a Smug Snake: he's a capable Chessmaster but most of his victories take place offscreen, so what we see is a creepy, pompous little weasel of an Ephebophile with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder who only gets ahead in life through a complete lack of morals. What makes Varys so downright scary is that, in Cersei's words, "he doesn't have a cock" - nobody really knows what he's after though, apparently, he wants Aegon VI on the throne. Littlefinger is most definitely not a eunuch, so it's all too obvious what he's after.
      • Not that I don't agree he's creepy and awful, but isn't this whole world pretty ephebophile-normative?
      • It is. Tyrion says straight out that he's attracted to Sansa when they're married and that's normal. What makes the skin crawl about Littlefinger's particular seduction method is the way it's couched in pretend fatherliness.
      • Along these same lines, what he really wants is Catelyn (Tully) Stark. What he has access to is Catelyn Stark v 2.0 younger and prettier. Sansa is considered a grown woman and there is no indication that he is interested in her because of her age, rather he is interested because she is her mother's daughter, looks like her mother, and can be molded to love him.
      • The series is set in what can be considered either the Middle or Dark Ages, when most people didn't live long past 40 if they made it that far. It wasn't unheard of for 14 and 15 year old girls to be married, in fact it was quite normal. 18 Year old women, which is barely legal now, were considered for most of that time period to be old maids or Christmas Cake.
      • I realize this isn't the point, but an average life expectancy of 40 doesn't mean that people actually die at 40. It means that some people live to be 70 but a lot of people die as infants.
      • This is exemplified by Maester Aemon of the Night's Watch, who is 100 years old as of the beginning of A Go T, and Lord Tywin Lannister, who became the Hand of the King for the first time something near 40 years ago.
      • People are perfectly capable of admiring a character's accomplishments without actually liking them (eg. The Joker, Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Master, to name a few)note . And you're right that he is a pretty smarmy, cleverer-than-you prick, but that doesn't mean he isn't also patient, savvy, and very very clever. The majority of his victories (but not all, ie. Feast) take place off screen because watching them play out fully would be boring - he would write a letter, pay someone some gold, whisper in someone's ear, etc etc. And again yes, all Littlefinger ultimately cares about is Littlefinger. He's got a Napoleon complex up the yazhoo, he's a horrible person, and I wouldn't want to be within 500 miles of him. Doesn't meant I can't go "Ok, that was pretty damn impressive" when I read about him.
      • Marrying 14 year old girls was not common in the Middle Ages. Betrothal might have been common among prominent noble houses, but marriage almost always came later. Now, in the Early Modern period, marriage at ages below the age of maturity (which was twenty-one in much of Europe in the Middle Ages, at least among the nobility) did become more common, but this series does not take place in a world that mimics the society of Early Modern Europe. And, as said above, the whole "life expectancy" thing is silly. Life expectancy in the Middle Ages (or any other pre-modern or undeveloped place) is largely driven down by infant mortality and young women dying in childbirth. Since people who have reached sexual maturity don't have to worry about dying as infants and since women don't have to worry about dying in childbirth until they're married (at least not according to societal expectations), marriage at 14 is pointless.
    • Last but certainly not least, there are the implications of some of his goals. In the show he's presented as more of an out and out villain; in the books there are indications he wants to pull down the aristocracy that kept him from the woman he desired and replace it with a meritocracy—with himself in the position of the most power, of course. Given the violence inherent to feudal systems, this makes him a bit more sympathetic, even if he's started wars and condemned hundreds of thousands to die in pursuit of the goal.

  • Is it just me or does the internet overstate how dark, grim, gritty and depressing this series is? Someone on LiveJournal pointed that The Iliad is much darker, has far more unlikeable characters (partially as a result of Values Dissonance) and is, by far, much more bloody and gory.
    • It is just you. Like mentioned below, compared to other modernly written stories, especially fantasy (as in, anything after Shakespeare) these books are on the far more cynical side than most any other examples you could think of. For one thing, main protagonists do not as a rule die in modern literature. If they do, it's often in heroic fashion or natural events: not after being branded a traitor, made to give a false confession, and seeing all their loved ones and legacy thrown to the winds. Furthermore, the family of the dead protagonist is supposed to be able to rise up in the name of justice, as the lower point falsely indicates is likely to happen (there's absolutely no guarantees of this). Their wives are not supposed to go mad and carve up their own faces before being stripped naked and dumped in a river: their children are not supposed to be slaughtered and have their corpses defiled. On top of this, classic tropes are subverted left and right. Prophecies fall through with resounding crashes, noble and just men die left and right to deceit and betrayal, rape, murder and torture are commonplace, and the bad guys can WIN. While many have died, there are still over a dozen twisted, evil people who have completely avoided any negative repercussions to their acts, and in fact have even gained substantially and permanently from them. I challenge you to find a book that came out after the renaissance, BEFORE this series, that covers even half of that. It's becoming a more popular thing thanks to Martin, with many writers (like Brent Weeks, of Night Angel trilogy) outright crediting him for inspiring them to write more realistic fiction.
      • You aren't well read if you seriously think all of that. I suggest that you go look up the Elric of Melniboné books (the series with the man who Arthas Menethil was based on), The Mists of Avalon (which has a viewpoint character being raped on-page as opposed to having a throw away commoner girl or somebody who is part of a viewpoint character's backstory be raped off-page), and The Once and Future King (where King Arthur dies, most of his knights die, Lancelot and Guenever are disgraced, Merlin is sealed away, and Arthur's dream of the Round Table ends in failure). And that's only looking at fantasy books set in Medieval Europe or somewhere based on it.
    • This troper, philipmarie, can actually think up of many, many books made way before Martins time that cover more than half of all that. Tanith Lee's Vivia is the story of a girl living in a fantasy version of Ruritania who is sexually abused left and right and forced to be the vessel of an Eldricth Abomination, all leading to a heart wrenching downer ending. Nobody learns anything. Arthurian Mythology and in particular The Once and Future King is the story of a man who despite espousing the noble pholosophy of Right Makes Might witnesses the downfall of his kingdom, the deaths of his Knights (including the senseless death of Gareth) and the downfall of his own family life. There is a scene where Arthur literally murders thousands upon thousands of babies just to avoid the downfall of his own kingdom, all ending with what is regarded as one of the great tear jerkers of literature. W ehave the Black Company series of books that look at war through the eyes of a bunch of morally gray mercaneries; we have Don Quixote which whilst not technically fantasy does deconstruct many unbuilt fantasy tropes created way before fantasy became mainstream; we have the Children of Hurin which has a morally gray protagonist and a token evil teammate among his foray; we have the Chronicles of Amber whose Unreliable Narrator protagonist literally sacrifices thousands upon thousands of people to capture the throne of his city; Elric of Melnibonne would be the main villain if he wasn't written as the protagonist; the Mists of Avalon has a graphic rape scene which actually delves into the mindset of the victim, something that has never been done in Song of Ice and Fire. So yes, there are plenty of fantasy novels and stories that explore more than half of what you just mentioned.
    • By the standards of all of literature, it's not so bad as all that. By the standards of modern fantasy?
      • Dark Fantasy is actually starting to become the main form of fantasy released now a days and by the standards of the genre this is fairly average in its soulcrushing content.
      • Is that true of Heroic Fantasy specifically as well? Anyway, yes, it's certainly not that dark by the standards of contemporary fantasy as a whole, much less contemporary literature as a whole, for Pete's sake. Probably what most people mean is that they were expecting Lordofthe Rings, but it's not like that at all. Oh well.
    • It is not just you. These series are not particularly dark, save for squicktastic details. They just describe in detail the stage of the story which other series usually just describe briefly as a backstory, namely one where villains triumph, kill off the chosen heroes' mentors and/or family and lead the land to ruin. But karma is already catching up with the bad guys, and the heroes are already starting their climb back to revenge and triumph. It is theoretically possible that the latter books are going to subvert that, but so far things seem to be lining up for the straightforward "Plot-shielded heirs of the Rightful King return, fulfill a shitload of prophecies, beat back the inhuman evil and set right all that was wrong" ending.
      • "Karma is already catching up with the bad guys" after five books. Some of the bad guys, that is, while others are still fine so far and new ones are being introduced. Some of the heroes are climbing towards revenge and triumph, but others never will. It's clearly impossible for there to be a "straightforward" return of the heirs of the "Rightful King", since Robb, the only heir to Ned, is dead, and the reader can hardly regard either Targaryen as rightful considering how the last king of that line went. Even if there does turn out to be a happy ending in the end, it will be very, very hard-earned. There is no truly unambiguously good character. (Admittedly, Jon Snow is the closest who's still alive as of aDwD, but even he is far from flawless.) All things considered, this series isn't completely bleak and may yet have a happy ending, but it really is quite a bit darker and grimmer than most.
    • Agreed, it's not just you. Yes, Martin has killed a lot of significant characters, but he has so many significant characters to begin with. I can think of several modern fantasy novels significantly older than A Song of Ice and Fire that were proportionally as bloody, if not bloodier. Just to pick a couple of examples, in Wishsong of Shannara, Brooks kills off all of Jair's companions except Slanter, and also kills off Allanon, and in the Second Book of Swords, Saberhagen kills off all the thieves except Mark and Ben. So proportionally speaking, Martin has not killed an unprecedented number of characters.
      • Yes, but the way he does it is more depressing than how Jair's companions die. They at least all die nobly in a cause that's sure not to be futile.
      • It's not the number of characters dying that makes a story "dark", it's who dies and why. In Wishsong of Shannara, for instance, lots of minor/secondary characters who have next to no individual personality die. And they die glorious deaths while helping the protagonists (Jair and Brin) achieve their goals. In ASOIAF, on the other hand, major characters with distinct personalities, like Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, Robert Baratheon, Khal Drogo, etc. die, and they all die ignominious deaths, having been defeated, betrayed, falsely accused or just outright murdered.
      • The Once And Future King is pretty damn grim by the end of it, and it's got plenty of grey and grue along the way.
    • Before there was A Song of Ice and Fire, there was The Dark Tower, The Vampire Chronicles, and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Read the first books of any of those series (heck, just read the first hundred pages of Covenant) and tell me they don't match A Song of Ice and Fire for Grim Darkness.

  • It's been a long time since I've read A Game of Thrones, but something struck me when I finished reading the last book - in A Go T Varys is spying on Daenerys through Jorah Mormont. Not only that, he actually was OK with Robert Baratheon's plan of killing her off. Now, why would he want her killed (he actually sent a poisoner) when it's later revealed that he and Illyrio were conspiring all along with the idea of Daenerys and Aegon uniting?
    • Bear in mind that Varys and Illyrio's plan has been changing month-to-month, and it's still unknown what they actually want. Varys might be calculating that killing Dany might be just the thing to provoke Drogo into invading Westeros, which might be what he really wants.
    • Well... then he's quite the hypocrite, since he says he's "working for the realm" and unleashing a devastating horde of BloodKnights upon it is kind of counter-productive. But yeah, I guess him and Illyrio are constantly improvising. Bonus points for him if the attempted murder is actually a hoax.
    • At the end of ADWD, it is very clear that Varys genuinely wants a Targaryan back on the throne. He supported it in court to keep up appearances in front of Robert, and it's likely that either: He set up the poisoner knowing he'd fail, or Littlefinger was the one to arrange everything.
      • Of course, that is if you believe that Aegon is actually Rhaegar's son and not the mummer's dragon from Dany's House of Dying visions. It seems that even more important than having a Targaryen on the throne is having a king with a certain "King Arthur" like education who would be willing to work for the realm, not himself.
      • And Aegon the Puppet is not a such king. He's Joffrey Mk.II. As about Varys' true motives and end goal, we know nothing of them yet. Varys is a liar, and his words can't be trusted in the slightest. Particularly Evil Gloating.
      • I wouldn't put "Aegon" in the same league as Joffrey, the worst of his name, yet; he just seems a little bratty. However, it is interesting that Dany and Jon - even with their mistakes - have more positive qualities as leaders than the heir trained in selfless rule. It's Fridge Brilliance.
    • I had more trouble working out his plan for Viserys. If he wanted him to build up power and conquer Westeros, then "use the Dothraki" in itself is a terrible plan, because they won't cross the sea willingly and if they did they'd utterly butcher the realm in the process, so that seems unlikely. If he'd noticed the Taint and wanted him to die, there must be easier ways of getting it done (though this might explain the assassins). If, as seems most likely, he wanted to keep him out of the way until Aegon could be installed, leaving such an arrogant and unstable guy in the hands of the Dothraki seems like an unnecessarily dangerous place to keep him. The utterly unpredictable way it's actually played out is probably close to the best-case scenario in terms of putting a Targaryan on the throne - use the Dothraki to extort some major cities in Essos and recruit sellswords and ships to take you west. Possibly he knew about the dragon eggs and the "three heads" prophecy and was originally hoping for Aegon to hook up with Dany and Viserys?
      • If you believe that Blackfyre theory (i.e.Varys is a Blackfyre loyalist), it makes more sense. Varys was using Viserys and Dany as pawns. The Dothraki were supposed to be the vanguard of the attack on Westeros. They'd utterly devastate the small folks and Westeros would hate Dany and Viserys for invading with such a brutal force. Enter valiant Aegon and the Golden Company, who would clean up the mess. Aegon would ascend to the throne as the hero who saved Westeros from the Dothraki. Viserys and Dany would either end up dead in the invasion or valiant Aegon would execute Viserys for war crimes and marry Dany to cement his claim. Unfortunately for Varys, Viserys was too dumb to live and died before he was supposed to.
    • We never actually see anyone poisoned by the wine. Maybe Varys actually sent unpoisoned wine and convinced the seller and Jorah that it was poisoned, counting on Jorah being in love with Dany. So, his plan was for Jorah to stop the assassination, provoking Drogo into attacking Westeros.
    • Or, despite being a Targaryen loyalist, he recognizes that Viserys would be a totally inept ruler, unlike Dany, so he sends Viserys to the Dothraki to get him killed.
      • No one sent Viserys to the Dothraki. Viserys insisted on going himself, Illyrio tries to talk him out of it and he goes anyway. You could argue reverse psychology here, but the fact was he was deadset on going with Khal Drogo from the start.
    • Keep in mind that Varys had no way of knowing that Dany would come up with three real dragons. Even if you throw the Seven Kingdoms into chaos, you still have to conquer them. A Dothraki army, brought across the Narrow Sea by sellsails or allies, was the only practical way of doing so. House Martell and others sympathetic to the Targaryen cause would only take on the Lannisters, Starks, Tullys, and Baratheons if they had a good chance of winning. Ten thousand mounted warriors would throw the odds in their favour.

  • Maybe I'm just entirely missing the point, but how did Arya kill the old insurer in Braavos for the Faceless Men? The chapter mentioned something about a cutpurse, a heart attack, and a "valar morghulis" coin...
    • Remember the prologue of Feast for Crows? Pate died after he bit down on the gold coin the stranger gave him, likely because it had a veneer of poison on it. The Ugly Child observed that the old insurer bit down on every coin he counted. All she had to do was replace a poisoned gold coin with one from the person she "robbed," and when he handed it to the insurer he would bite it and die.

  • I'm guessing this is explained somewhere, but I was wondering that if Faceless Men believe death is a gift/good thing, why they won't kill anyone upon request. Also, kind of wondering what they do with what must be fabulous wealth (by repute, they are very expensive to hire). They have a nice temple, but there's got to be more to it.
    • Maybe they're closely associated with the Iron Bank that became an important plot point at the tail end of Dance with Dragons. If you are going to be ruthless with collecting debts as the Iron Bank is, it would be important to have skilled assassins... wouldn't it?
    • It isn't for us but for the God of Many Faces to decide who deserves the Gift. In aCoK, Arya got her three deaths by making a direct trade with the God, from Jaqen's perspective. They're expensive... but not necessarily in gold.
    • Remember too that the Kindly Man offered Arya Stark a number of other life choices including being a high-class courtesan, or marriage to a husband at any level of society she wished. This implies that their cult has a great deal of influence, which they would get through a combination of wealth, fear, and tradition (given that their guild existed when the Bravossi were still slaves, long before there was a Braavos).

  • So Samwell Tarly's dad considered him an Inadequate Inheritor for not being Bad Ass enough, but bore him no hard feelings otherwise (or at least not enough to simply murder him outright), and so he got him out of the way by sending him off to the Night's Watch, who forswear all lands, titles, and inheritance, and are a group of PROFESSIONAL BADASSES. WTF? Why would he send him there as opposed to, say, the Maesters, who ALSO forswear all lands, titles, and inheritance, but are a bunch of peaceable advisers and scholars? Wouldn't that have been far more up Sam's alley?
    • He obviously wanted to go with the option more likely to leave his son dead. Further, it's not like Sam thinks of himself as much more suited to being a maester than the Black — the cutting up of dead and all that. Lastly, and probably most importantly, the maesters train in close proximity to his family's holdings, and the whole point was to get Sam far, far away.
    • He wanted to get rid of the kid in a way that gave himself (and the general concept of "honor" on the whole house, I suppose) enough ass-cover to at least allow for the pretense that he wasn't just plain disinheriting him. Also, making him swear service to an order that requires lifelong service on penalty of execution effectively means he can't ever try to come home again, much less try some sort of revenge (not that that was likely, but you never know). After that, I think he just figured whatever happened to Sam or didn't was someone else's problem. If he'd cared at all about scholarly pursuits or his son's sensitive feelings, or the idea that one's son even has a right to sensitive feelings or his own desires at all, he'd never have sent him away in the first place.
    • Sam actually mentions that he had some interest in becoming a Maester (minus the dead body part) but his father forbade him to join the Maesters because Maesters serve other lords. Sam says Lord Randyll told him "The life of a maester is a life of servitude. No son of House Tarly will ever wear a chain. The men of Horn Hill do not scrape and bow to petty lords."
      • Randall Tarly didn't just forbid it; he actually chained his son up in the dungeons at Horn Hill when Sam got up the courage to propose this solution to his father. Basically telling him if it is chains you want then I'll give you them. A Feast For Crows infers that this is why Sam is so against going to Oldtown, not cutting up dead bodies. Cutting up dead bodies is the excuse that he gives Jon.
    • Randall would not accept any son that wasn't a Bad Ass. The way he saw it, the Night's Watch would be Sam's last chance- he'd either finally become a warrior there, or die. He'd rather his son get killed than not live up to his expectations.
    • Not all men of the Night's Watch are rangers. Someone's got to clean the stables, cook the food, mend the clothes, and so on.
    • Furthermore, if he wanted to make sure that Sam would never be able to interfere with him or his chosen son again, the Wall was a much safer bet. Once a Maester finishes his training, he is usually assigned to a Lord's house. And even though they hold no formal power, maesters can still influence their Lords, and thus Sam could conceivable try to work against his father. No such problem at the Wall. He is going to stay there until his death, and even if he is one of the few to do business south, he still has almost no way to influence politics.
    • He threatens to murder Sam (via a Hunting Accident), but Sam 'volunteering' for the Wall enables Randall to kill his hated weakling son without breaking the taboo against kinslaying.
      • And if he doesn't die, well then maybe he's at least a little tough, and not a complete disappointment.
    • Another point is that the Night's Watch isn't seen as a group of professional badasses, at least not south of the Neck. They are the losers, the second sons, the also-rans, the castoffs, and the has-beens.

  • It's mentioned that the Stark family is 8000 years old, and presumably this applies to the other great houses. Because Westeros practices primogeniture, this means that these families have not failed in the male line for about 2000 years longer than all of human civilization. I understand that Westeros has some kind of temporal stasis, but this doesn't seem possible. Furthermore, there's no way that the Stark crypt is large enough to contain eight millenia's worth of leaders, and the chances of ancestral castles and artifacts surviving that long is slim to none.
    • This is discussed in the books themselves. Sam talks about how unreliable the history that they have is, and that the Maesters seriously doubt the given time scale.
    • It's possible that female descendants kept the name if they were the inheritors of Winterfell. See Maege Mormont and her daughters - Maege didn't take her husband's name because she is Lady of Bear Island in her own right and whichever daughter inherits will almost certainly do the same.
    • And as for the crypt: Theon mentiones in ADWD that there are many more levels beneath the crypt now in use, some already partially collapsed, so theoretically, yes, there could be room for eight millenia of rulers.
    • They probably started with more houses and they've dropped to this number over time. Google Galton Watson extinction of family names which provides a statistical analysis of how the number of names drop over time. An example is China which used to have thousands of family names but is now down to 450, the rest have died out. Countries which have adopted surnames more recently still have thousands.
    • The name has almost certainly descended through the female line at times. Brandon the Daughterless was succeeded by the son of Bael the Bard if Ygritte's tale is to be believed.
    • The time spans mentioned in A So Ia F are almost certainly exaggerated, as Sam mentions. The uneven seasons may lead to an incorrect reckoning of time.

  • Why exactly is serving in the Night's Watch so horrible? I am not talking about how people of noble birth or otherwise decent surroundings would be reluctant to volunteer - I can see that, it would not be my career choice either. But it's mentioned several times that some criminals prefer to be executed or castrated rather than joining. Why would anyone EVER consider this? The first leaves you definitely dead, and the second in excruciating pain, with a lifelong stigma, and probably also dead (given the low hygiene standards the procedure is bound to be performed in). Joining the Watch on the other hand means MAYBE freezing to death, and MAYBE being killed by wildlings (or Others, but since pretty much no one outside the Watch really knows about them, they should not figure into this). All the while you are fed (not much, but enough to survive, a big deal), clothed and get a roof to sleep under (a commodity many in wartorn Westeros lack). And even if most officers are of high birth, the Watch is one of the few places in Westeros where you can earn status even if you are a commoner or bastard. So I guess my question is - why has the Watch even a shortage of men? Shouldn't there be a great influx of volunteers whenever there is a war, famine or other desaster that leads to lots of people losing everything?
    • The main reason is that there has not been a famine or debilitating disaster in quite a while. It seems that Robert's Rebellion did not do nearly the damage to Westeros that the War of the Five Kings did - probably because Tywin Lannister spent most of it at Casterly Rock biding his time and the realm has had fourteen years of mainly summer to recover from any effects. Nobody knows about the Night Watch's importance and most bastards and younger sons would rather become maesters, septons, or knights than freeze at the Wall. However, it does seem that when given the option most criminals take the Wall.
      • A lifetime of celibacy and being bored off of your ass standing on a frozen wall made of ice staring at nothing while freezing your balls off. It's like prison but hey, it's freezing. Oh, and it's a life sentence. If you run? You die. I can't for the life of me understand why this would be seen in an uncomplimentary light. Did I mention that it's cold?
      • Is it a nice fate? No. Is it a nice fate compared to, say, starving because one dick marched through your land when he went to war and took everything you had, and then three weeks later another dick marched through and took what's left, and any moment now a third dick may show up and just kill you because it's fun, and right now no one's around to persecute him? Sure, when everything is peaceful no one wants to go to the Wall. But you can only go so many days without food before the group of people who promise to take everyone (now including women) and feed them starts to sound very appealing. And unlike joining the army of one of the lords, you are not going to end up on the wrong side of a rebellion. Most of Westeros considers the Watch to be without a purpose anyway, so there does not seem to be much danger up there (excluding the cold). Granted, becoming a maester sounds much more appealing, but for that you have to get all the way to Oldtown, and for almost half the continent (the North) this is next to impossible right now.
      • An important thing to remember is that the Watch was undermanned BEFORE the war started. It was still summer at the time, and as another troper mentioned, no one wants to freeze their ass off on a wall unless they have to, and the lack of food and pillaging bandits and etc meant they would be less inclined to. And once the war started... well, we know what happened to Yoren and his recruits. The simple notion of finding recruits and bringing them back to the Wall would take a great deal of time and resources, which they probably couldn't spare because of The Great Ranging and because they were undermanned to begin with.
    • There is no reason to assume that Westeros has a lot of crime, or at least not a lot of serious crime. It's a mostly rural society, and prior to the War of the Five Kings, a peaceful and prosperous one. Such crime as Westeros has probably runs more toward petty theft, the periodic drunken brawl, or other minor crimes likely to be punished with nothing more than a flogging or a day in the stocks. The number of crimes serious enough to invoke a penalty severe enough to make heading for the Wall attractive may have been small, at least in recent years.
    • Well, there is crime and violence enough to make room for sellswords, bandits and an entire section of the capital devoted to petty criminals. There is also numerous mentions of how dangerous the roads are, even before the War of Five Kings. Still, quite a few people enjoy life even if they have to steal now and then. Thieveing, and going hungry in a warm and nice place as King's Landing, where you also might die a violent death is probably preferable to basically doing the same, but under a much stricter regime, at the Wall. Also, the Wall is more or less at the far end of the world. Just getting there would be risky. Also, why was ser Davos a smuggler instead of joining the Watch? Some men prefer and even prosper being criminals. Compare it with our world, not everyone who can join the French Foreign Legion (including the petty criminals that are still allowed) do so and there are as many reasons as there are people.
    • There are ton of reasons. First, the vast majority of people are not eligible to join the Watch. Women (initially) and the young aren't eligible. The old typically have roots and/or families they don't want to abandon. And during the war, men of fighting age can easily find work in one of the many armies rampaging around. Also, the Watch is filled with killers, thieves, and rapists. Sure, there are those with noble hearts like Halfhand, but as the fiasco at Craster's Keep showed the lid can come off the rest. Many of them aren't all that pleasant to spend your days with even when discipline does hold. But most importantly, the Watch involves sacrificing your entire future. You will never have kids. You will never own a business, work good land, enjoy any prosperity, or even get laid again (in theory). You can rise up in the ranks, but to what end? Your life will still be brutally austere until your inevitable cold death.
      • Errr, the young weren't elligible? Then what was Lommy Greenhands and Hot Pie doing with Yoren?
      • They weren't eligible initially. The fact that Yoren has to make to do with taking early adolescent orphans just goes to show how dire their recruiting is.
      • You're wrong, actually. They accept male children when they're very young, for example: Mance Rayder and Qhorin Halfhand. But I understand if you missed that fact, they're completely unimportant characters who have no baring on the story.

  • Why hasn't winter hit yet? They made a big thing in the first book about how winter is coming, and that it would be a long one. I was expecting that the winter would hit about the same time as the war did - we'd have heavy snowfall in Winterfell in ACOK, the rivers in the Trident would freeze in ASOS, and by AFFC Cersei has to dress in furs to avoid freezing her butt off. However, the only major sign of winter we've had in the south is that the Eyrie has been abandoned (which they do every winter), and that happens at the end of AFFC! Unless the last two books cover a lot of time, when the whole series ends, they'll still be in the dead of winter. Of course, it's entirely possible that this is all part of GRRM's plan - I'm speculating from the title of the next book that winter is about to hit hard. Still, It Just Bugs Me!.
    • Winter has come — a white raven from the maesters clinches it. The whole narrative up till now has used the encroachment of winter as a slow, inexorably creeping factor that adds a forbearing subtext to everything that happens — all human accomplishments, good or ill, will have to answer that which cannot be changed. The Seven Kingdoms, you might say, are fiddling while Rome freezes. And like you say, it seems like we see its full effects soon.
      • Winter has only just come. The first batch of white ravens from the citadel announced the arrival of autumn, and we've been seeing autumn-like weather for the duration of the War of the Five Kings, but just now we're seeing the beginnings of winter, with the first frosts in the south and the north's first big snowfall. tWoW will probably open with another white raven.
      • In fact aDwD finishes with a white raven in the epilogue

  • Okay, so, in book three we find out that Littlefinger arranged for Jon Arryn's death, knowing that it would bring the Starks to King's Landing and, once they were there, subtly led Ned to discovering the whole Twincest thing, then played off his Honor Before Reason tendencies so he'd get himself arrested and sent to the Wall. Of course, this didn't work out exactly how he planned. However, the going theory is that he did this, at least in part, so Ned's marriage vows would be anulled, making Cat single. But, in ADWD, Cersei mentions that, even before the whole beheading thing, he'd asked her if he could marry Sansa Stark, his Replacement Goldfish. So had he given up on Cat already? Did he view Sansa as an equal, if not superior, substitute, and only kept after Ned out of revenge? Or did the whole Stalker with a Crush thing not factor in at all, and it was just convenient that the Starks were caught up in it? Pretty minor, but it occurred to me the other day and has been bugging me since then.
    • This occurred to me too, except my bone to pick with it was that it was a very stupid action in Petyr's part and he is not stupid. Not only does it not make any sense re:his love/obsession with Catelyn but it declares his hand to Cersei and by extension the other Lannisters way too early. At that point he hadn't gained any social standing at all and Sansa has just turned twelve. And surely Cersei would have suspected Petyr when Sansa vanished from King's Landing? I view this as a bad Retcon. I can't fit it into canon at all. However, when Petyr is demanding a large but unspecified reward for recruiting that Tyrells at a council meeting in A Clash Of Kings, I now think he was asking for Sansa at some point in the future. Like, when she's not a child.
    • OP here. Maybe the fan-theory that his plan was to get Ned sent to the wall is wrong. My guess now is that he was exclusively after revenge. He had no designs to win Cat; he wanted to take everything away from her, and all the Starks. Which also explains why he didn't try to stop or appear to react to her death. When he saw Sansa, he saw her as a second chance, a way to get the girl, except he'd be getting a version of the girl who hadn't scorned him. So, in summary, my new theory: Littlefinger hates Adult!Catelyn, but he's still in love with Child!Catelyn, and looks at Sansa as a kind of reincarnation of that. Yeah, I know.
      • This theory holds a lot of water, but it still needs to be proved. My impression is that Petyr's an opportunist who has already shown readers that, often, he'll take what he can get and make it work. I think he viewed Sansa as an equal substitute for Cat, especially since he's already eyeing her up earlier in the book. Notably, Sansa would have, at that point, been a gateway to less prestige, given her position at court (agree: stupid). It would also be disadvantageous given the necessity of eliminating the other Starks before he could get a political payoff from her (which gives water to the "abandoning Cat" theory). Or maybe it's really just true love.
      • It may be that the exact opposite of the theory that Petyr wanted Ned sent to the Wall is true. He might be the one who convinced Joffrey it was better to execute him.
      • He intended to send Ned to the Wall and marry Sansa. However when Cersei denied him Sansa's hand, he got pissed off and convinced Joffrey to execute Ned, thus throwing the Lannisters into a war with the Starks and Tullys whose Houses he already hated.

  • A Feast for Crows was split into two volumes, because it turned out much too long. Instead of just cutting it in half, Martin decided to split it by POV, because otherwise every character would only get two or three chapters, and there would be little progress individually. ADWD supplied the remained POV. And Martin has announced that TWOW will not be split. So... doesn't that mean we are faced with the exact same problem. The only recurring POV to die in ADWD was introduced in the same book, along with two more recurring ones. Meaning the number of POV is now actually higher than it was before. That means either:
    • Some characters just don't get chapters in TWOW. They return in the next volume, but what happened between is only mentioned in passing.
    • Some POV are discontinued. So far PO Vs only ceased to exist if the character died (except Catelyn, a special case). But it may be used to solve this problem. However, as of the end of ADWD, only a few POV are together (so that one could fill in for the other). Arianne (confirmed to appear in TWOW) could fill in for Areo Hotah (who never ...did much anyway), Theon for Asha (if they are still together after what may or may not have happened to Stannis' host). Barristan only got his POV to narrate the story in Mereen after Dany was gone, so he could lose it if she returns soon. Melisandre only had a single chapter anyway, but she will very likely be used to narrate what happened to Jon.
    • They are discontinued because they die. Well, while that could happen (to one or two, maybe), I don't think Martin would just kill off a significant number of them in the first few chapters. Yes, Anyone Can Die, but so far the number of truly 'central' characters to die has not been that large.
    • Nothing. All POV appear in TWOW, but the number of those who only get one or two chapters (like Melisandre or Jon Connington in ADWD) increases.
  • While in-character, but I'm kind of puzzled by Jaime's creative interpretation of the oath Catelyn had him make and how Jaime seems to think he's keeping it. Jaime was made to promise that he would not take up arms against Starks or Tullys. While Jaime does argue that the oath was meaningless since he made it at sword-point, he still feels bound by it (if only in defiance of his rep as The Oathbreaker). The problem is, if he really cared about the oath, then he'd be following the spirit of it, not just the letter. Cat obviously would have wanted him to stay out of the conflict entirely, and I can't believe that Jaime himself thinks he's really following the oath. I'm sure Un-Cat will be really understanding when Jaime meets her.
    • Shutting down the conflict without any further casualties sounds like it would be perfectly within the spirit of the oath.
    • Jaime was acting under the direct orders of the Queen Regent to finish the siege of Riverun. He's a knight of the Kingsguard and it's treason to refuse those orders. He simply did the best he could to obey Cersei and yet keep his oath to Cat. He knows he'll be the Kingslayer until the day he dies, so keeping the oath is more important to himself than what others think of him; and if his reputation as an immoral shit helps him resolve the situation without bloodshed, he might as well use it.
  • So, on Westeros, do bears hibernate through the entire winter? because I'm pretty sure a bear would die if it tried to hibernate for 20 years.
    • Well, it's unspecified exactly how long the weird seasons have been going on, and many animals that depend on the changing of the seasons in our world seem to be doing just fine. I suppose they've adapted, or this is an example of Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit".
    • There is also mention of "Summer Snows" which suggests there could be 'Winter Thaws.' Just because they enter into extended cold periods doesn't necessarily mean it does nothing but snow and be cold for years on end. They might simply have greatly shortened warm spells. Short summers that never get very warm or sunny would impede crop growth while still allowing wild flora and fauna a break.
    • They shapeshift into Mormonts.
  • Okay, what exactly happened with Asha and Qarl? I honestly couldn't tell if it was roleplay or rape. Sounds kinda petty, but there's a world of difference between two people acting on a fetish and a woman coming to enjoy a man forcing himself on her because they're in love.
    • I think it was the latter. Very disappointing, because until then Martin had been so good at demonstrating that rape was a part of Medieval life without glorifying it or playing any stupid "but then she liked it" games. Really, GRRM, why?
      • Because some women do like it? Whether or not it's PC? Considering Asha also comes on to her brother for shits and giggles she is probably not the most vanilla person by nature anyway.
      • I'm pretty sure it was roleplay, although I wish that GRRM had given us a hint ahead of time because the scene does read like a rape scene if you don't know what's going on.
      • After the fact, it sounds like she and Qarl have done this before. I'm going with "roleplay", but a more extreme version.
      • Keep in mind, these are ironborn. They're tough as nails (remember the "finger dance," anybody? Or being drowned and brought back as a religious rite?) and could easily have a taste for very rough sex.
      • Because perhaps she genuinely likes it? Actual rape would be a different matter entirely of course, but rough foreplay or lack of entirely with someone who makes her wet? Everyone's got different preferences, and her musings on Qarl suggest she does have feelings for him, she just prefers the way they do things.
    • And In-Universe the ironborn do glorify rape — while everyone else accepts that it's inevitable in war, it's still an atrocity and their lords make a point of hanging or gelding those rapists they catch. With the ironborn however the fact that Euron has seen the world, met interesting women and raped them counts in his favor, as Asha herself mentions before the kingsmoot.
    • According to Asha's inner monologue later in the same chapter, she and Qarl have been lovers for years, so it's pretty clear that the earlier scene is only roleplay.

  • Why does Rhaegar get so much in-universe respect? He was pretty and good at the harp and tourneys, but he didn't do anything to protect his mother from the brutality of Aerys, neither did he do anything to mitigate the damage Aerys's insanity was doing to Westeros, betrayed his wife by getting (consensually or no) with Lyanna, which also started a war, which he then lost, failed to protect his wife and children from being brutally murdered, couldn't protect Lyanna either... Aerys may have been crazy, but it was Rhaagar who truly caused the downfall of his house. The house of Tagaeryn, his mother, his father, his wife, his children, his lover, his country... was there anyone this man had a responsibility to that he DIDN'T let down?
    • Because he was the sane pretty prince and up until the Lyanna thing (and we don't actually know if he was in any way really in the wrong there) he probably could have held the realm together once the Mad King was dead. As for "betraying his wife", given the number of obvious (by their name) bastards roaming around who are openly acknowledged, why would anyone even bat an eyelash? The only problem was his choice of whom to dally with. (If that's all it was, which seems increasingly unlikely.)
    • He was handsome, accomplished both in the harp and tourneys (so both art and war), probably noble all around and liked by the common people and his peers both. Basically he was a model knight until the Lyanna thing, after which things escalated quite fast. Considering the patriarchal, feudal model, and the sheer number of acknowledged bastards around, nobody would've cared if he had a bit on the side if it wasn't Lyanna and she wasn't engaged at the time. Also, as far as I remember Aerys wasn't a bad king until the madness started getting at him hard - he'd been a decent king for years, so why would Rhaegar antagonize him?
      • It's possible that Lyanna wasn't meant to be a "bit on the side" either. The first Targaryen king had two wives. Princess Elia was Dornish, and therefore likely more open to non monogamy. And since the reason (if you piece it together) he ran off with Lyanna was because a third pregnancy would likely have killed Elia and he thought he needed three children, surely a trueborn child would be better.
    • It is a case of people remembering things as being better than they were. Rhaegar is dead and it is easy to cast a dead man as the savior. It is a case of the people of Westeros thinking that if only the dashing prince was alive, our lives wouldn't be miserable.
      • In one of Jaime's reminiscences, Rhaegar acknowledges that he could have done better for the realm during Aerys's reign and tells him that when he comes back from battle he will make changes. Unfortunately, that battle is The Trident.
    • It's also mentioned at least once that Aerys came to the tourney at Harrenhal (that fateful one where Rhaegar fell in love with Lyanna and Ned with Ashara Dayne) specifically because he feared that Rhaegar would use the tourney to build an army and depose him. The fact that Rhaegar crowned Lyanna the queen of love and beauty publicly — even in front of his wife — seems to indicate that she wasn't simply intended to be a random dalliance. So clearly, at least after the Mad King went mad, Rhaegar was open to the possibility of overthrowing his father for the good of the kingdom and actually made at least some moves in that direction (and might have discussed it with Elia).

  • Something I thought of that kind of confused me, and wondered if there was evidence in-series for there being precedents. Cersei is shown having a plan dependent upon Osney Kettleblack being sent to the Wall, and had promised to pardon him afterward, something he seems to trust. Similarly, Stannis is shown promising to release Jon from his vows. While I guess royals can do whatever they want, it seems strange that you could release someone from the Night Watch, since they say a vow to serve for life. In the case of conscripts, their being pardoned/innocent of a crime is immaterial to the oath, and with someone who joined willingly, like Jon, it seems even stranger that a royal edict could cancel out their oath.
    • It's exactly the "royals can do whatever they want" case. Just like Cersei dismisses the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, another station that requires a life-long oath to be taken, Stannis can dismiss a member of the Night's Watch. It's unorthodox and probably unprecedented, but well within their capabilities. Or you can see it as the oath being broken, and then the king pardoning this crime.
    • It's made clear that oaths have been worked around in the past if need be. When Maester Aemon was offered the Iron Throne, it had also been arranged for him to be freed from his vows to the Citadel, but he Refused The Crown. King Robb talks of legitimising Jon Snow, saying that if he arranges for a hundred or so men to be sent to the Wall, he's sure the Night's Watch could find some way to release Jon from his vows, so clearly bribery works too.

  • In A Game Of Thrones, Ned and Robert are talking about how Jaime is going to become Warden of the East because Robert Arryn isn't strong enough to take up the post, and how he will also become Warden of the West when Tywin dies. But hasn't Jaime been in the Kingsguard since he was fifteen? In later books it makes the point that he can't inherit Casterly Rock because he's a member of the Kingsguard, so he can't hold titles. How can he then be Warden of the East?
    • The warden titles represent the person responsible for defense of the given region; traditionally but not necessarily held by the high lord of the region. Jaime can't serve as high lord, but as a member of the Kingsguard, he can serve as a general in times of war, and therefore serve as a warden. It's likely that Warden of the West is the only title that Jaime can inherit from Tywin, and it would be one he'd be far more capable at than Tyrion or Kevan, who at the time would have been Tywin's heirs-apparent.
    • As discussed elsewhere, "title" in a feudal context refers to lands and incomes as a vassal, and the military and political power associated. As Kingsguard, Jaime can't be Lord of Casterly Rock. As Kingsguard, he can have honorifics and military commands, which is what a Warden is.
    • An example would be the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard serving on the Small Council.

  • How does Samwell Tarly remain so fat? In his POV chapters he is still the huffing, puffing round mound of touchdown that he was when he was introduced. Yet, this is after all the training he did at the wall, the whole expedition to the Fist, basically starving on the voyage to Braavos, and months and months of Night Watch food. He shouldn't be in shape just yet, but he should be significantly slimmer after that much time.
    • Diabetes?
    • Sam's father had been trying to get him in shape for years, so it's not like he wasn't getting any exercise.
    • Sam does mention in one of his last PO Vs in ADWD that while he's still overweight, he's not nearly as fat as he used to be. And people can be fit/in shape while still appearing "fat", which may be the case with Sam.
      • Sam's last POV chapter where he says he's not as fat as he was actually bothered me as well. So trudging across the wilderness and nearly starving to death for the better part of two books did nothing to help him lose weight, but sitting on a boat for awhile and eating fish was super effective. Um, okay. I imagine he'd remain pudgy despite all the training while at the wall itself, though, because night watch food would probably be fairly hearty in order to provide enough energy for the primarily already-fit night watchmen.
    • Like Hurley pointed out on LOST: one of the many things that suck about being very overweight is that you can lose thirty or forty pounds, enough to make a healthy-sized person into a skeleton, and it will still barely show, because it's such a small portion of your total body weight. Fat people don't magically lose weight at a faster rate than non-fat people — just like everyone else, they lose it a few pounds at a time.

  • Why didn't Tywin ever remarry and try and have another son to replace Tyrion? Yea, he loved his late wife, but he's cold, ruthless, and above all, pragmatic. And he hates Tyrion. Why hold onto some vain and irrational hope that Jaime will be allowed to inherit despite being a kingsguard instead of trying to produce a non-dwarven heir and pulling a Randal Tarly on Tyrion?
    • I've been wondering about both this and Tywin's helping himself to Shae. He hates Tyrion and he hates whores, but he's fine with having sex with Tyrion's whore?
      • As for that it's as simple as him being a hypocrite. As for why he fucks Shae specifically, well, she's hot and very good at telling men what they want to hear. Another factor is he might not be so opposed to whores in general as he is embarrassed by Tyrion's flagrant, open whoring. Tyrion makes no secret of his visits to brothels. Tywin might have been less hostile about it if his son wasn't dragging the family name through the sludge. Still, original question stands.
    • It's mentioned that he was devoted to his wife (Aegon ruled the kingdom, he ruled Aegon, she ruled him). Further, after he found out about the infidelity of his wife and the past business with his fathers mistress, I can imagine him being a bit bitter on official relations with women, if not still heartbroken. Remarrying purely for power gives conflicts with his other children, who he does love. Still, I'm not convinced myself...
      • "Infidelity of his wife"? I don't recall that ever being mentioned, but I may have just forgotten. Where did you get this?
      • Page 57 of Book I: Tyrion: "All dwarfs are bastards in their father's eyes." Jon Snow: "You are your mother's trueborn son of Lannister." Tyrion: "Am I? . . . Do tell my lord father. My mother died birthing me, and he's never been sure."
      • And that's leaving out the hints about Joanna and King Aerys that we get in Book 5.
      • Ignoring Book 5 (can't recall those hints, need to reread), but Tyrion's comment is clearly meant to be about the lack of recognition he's gotten from Tywin, not any real doubt as to his bloodline.
      • In book 3, Tywin states: "Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors, since I cannot prove that you are not mine."
      • Because of his dislike of Tyrion. It has yet to be implied that he ever caught Joanna in a compromising or suspicious situation.
      • I have had a theory for some time that the reason Tywin never remarried (as could be seen to be his duty, be his private inclinations what they may; heck, gays marry if they're lords, and need to produce heirs to their Houses) is that he's either impotent, or has something else wrong. Remember, at weddings, the bride and groom are stripped in public as part of the bedding ceremony. Someone as prideful as Tywin Lannister would sooner remain unmarried rather than either not be able to display an erection or show the world that his genitalia are damaged.
      • Tywin is so often associated with ruthless pragmatism that it's easy to forget he's just as easily influenced by his emotions as his offspring. It shows rarely — e.g. when he loses his temper when Tyrion asks for his rights as his heir — but a man who seeks to clamp down on all emotion is probably more likely to be influenced by it subconsciously. Tywin could simply be a Heartbroken Badass; his One True Love died and caused him such pain that Tywin, who despises weakness and refuses all half-measures, is determined never to put himself in that situation ever again. Remember too that Tywin saw his father open himself to ridicule with his concubine who was clearly a Replacement Goldfish for his dead wife (wearing her jewelry and listening to her council). So he refuses wives or concubines, but because Tywin still has sexual urges he discretely takes a whore to his bed when needed — but he'd view that as strictly controlling his urges unlike his son who loses himself in hedonism.
      • Tywin also planned to remove Jaime (whom Tywin seemed to be extremely proud of) from the Kingsgaurd and return him to the position of heir of Casterly Rock.
      • That wasn't an option until after Cersei removed Barristan from the guard; before that such a move would be unprecedented. Now, Tywin gives Tyrion his "You won't turn Casterly Rock into a whore house" speech after that, but the only reason he thinks he can have Jamie pulled from the guard is his lost hand, and Tywin didn't know about that at that point- I don't even think it had happened yet. There's also the question of why he didn't try it in the ten or so years before this point where Jamie was Kingsguard and Tyrion was a whoremongering dwarf and there didn't seem to be anyway around it. The only thing I can think is that he planned to give it to Tommen.

  • Aeron Damphair apparently drinks nothing but sea water these days. Do that and at the very least you'd get incredibly, horribly dehydrated from all the salt in it, not to mention the effect it would have on your renal system in trying to get said salt out of you. Why has Aeron not died by now?
    • It's made pretty clear that Aeron is being utilized by the Drowned God in some way or another (he doesn't need sleep when he has 'the god in him', similar to how Melisandre, the other prophet, doesn't need to eat). Presumably the religious nourishment of the seawater is all the god requires from him.
    • Aeron did not necessarily drink only seawater. This is stated categorically in one of the Victarion chapters of A Dw D.

  • Okay, I'm not well-versed in medieval history, but what makes the Great Houses great? There don't seem to be very many of them, and the lesser houses are apparently being extinguished in the male line all the time. Is there a certain number of Great Houses that need to exist?
    • The Great Houses are all overlords, charged with running each of the Seven Kingdoms, with many lesser lords swearing fealty to them. Also, they're essentially royal houses, and before the Targaryens landed most of them were kings of their realms. This is why the Seven Kingdoms are the Seven Kingdoms despite being ruled over by one king for a long time.
    • You can certainly replace one Great House with another (House Tyrell for House Gardener, or House Lannister for House Casterly). But eliminating the need for one is virtually impossible, since that would leave you with a power vacuum in a geographic region resistant to being ruled from afar.
    • They have the most defensible castles and the most income from their lands. That's basically it.
    • That's the reason they *became* Great or Royal Houses, through conflict with rivals and getting vassals. But as the posters above said, they legal position is very different. In a European-style feudal system, there are several levels of vassalage. Very much simplified, it looks like this: Landed knights swear fealty to minor lords, minor lords to greater lords, greater lords to the crown. We see that same system at work in Westeros. Hypothetical example: Ser Alyn is a landed knight sworn to House Smallwood. House Smallwood is sworn to House Vance of Wayfarer's Rest, which is (was) a vassal of House Tully. House Tully swears fealty to the Iron Throne.
  • It seems that half the women who get married in this series get to keep their last names. Despite being married to Robert Baratheon, Cersei is never called Cersei Baratheon, only Cersei Lannister. And Sansa remains Sansa Stark after getting married to Tyrion, instead of being renamed Sansa Lannister. Yet the Tully sisters took on the last names of their husbands, being called Catelyn Stark and Lysa Arryn instead of Catelyn and Lysa Tully. There are a bunch of other, smaller examples of both that i can't name off the tip of my head, but i can't remember specifics. So can someone explain this?
    • There could be any number of explanations. For one, maybe taking the husband's name is a northman tradition and keeping the maiden name is a southern one. The north does seem to be more traditional, maybe its an Old Gods vs. the Seven thing. On a personal level, Catelyn and Lysa married men who were at least interested in them as people, even if the matches were arranged. Cersei married Robert, who was pining for Lyanna and who couldn't give two craps about her, so he wouldn't have pressed the issue - and she was in love with Jaime so she would have wanted to keep the name. Sansa could be explained in two ways: Either they still thought of her as a traitor's daughter and didn't want to give her the Lannister name, or they wanted to keep the Stark to strengthen Tyrion's claim to Winterfell.
    • I always thought that it was unofficial. So basically, technically speaking Cersei's last name is Baratheon, and Sansa's is Lannister, but that's not the name people mentally associate with them for whatever reason, so no one calls them that, out loud or in the narration. They just don't think to do it, whereas Catelyn and Lysa both became far more associated with their married names. For Cersei there could be another reason; Westeros is inspired in several ways by medieval England, and English common-born Queens continued to be referred to with their surnames, even though technically their name was now Plantagenet or Tudor - the foreign ones rarely had a last name they used in the first place, they were So-and-so of Country.
    • similar to the above poster, I always thought it had to do with title. House Tully has a male heir so the sisters take their husband's names. Jamie can't inherit and Tyrion is effectively disinherited so Cersi/her issue is the inheritor of Casterly Rock, not to mention that much of Robert's power came from the Lannister marriage, you don't want people forgetting that. (Also why Joffrey's sigil is the stag AND the lion, not just the crowned stag of Baratheon.)
    • Another theory: maybe women keep their last names if they are married into a younger family. So, Catelyn changed her last name because Starks are the oldest of the great houses, Cersei kept hers because Baratheons are a new house.
    • OP here, I managed to ask George R.R. Martin himself, this is his answer: If Robert had still been a lord when Cersei wed him, she would have been Lady Baratheon. Instead she became Queen Cersei. Not much different from real life. Over in England, people talk about Queen Elizabeth II, not Elizabeth Windsor. Princess Diana was Princess Diana, not Diana Windsor. Etc.
      • Makes perfect sense. If Queen Elizabeth were to predecease Prince Philip, people would not take to calling him Philip Mountbatten.
      • Sorry, but neither of those comparisons are relevant in this case. Queen Elizabeth II is a queen in her own right, while Cersei is a queen consort: two different things altogether. Princess Diana wasn't commonly called Diana Spencer after her marriage any more than she was called Diana Windsor, while Cersei is still referred to as Cersei Lannister and never Cersei Baratheon. It seems more likely that in Westeros, the married women who stood to inherit their father's estates - such as Cersei or Sansa, or even Daenerys, for that matter - kept their maiden name after marriage (whether officially or unofficially is not clear).
      • Although a fine observation, might I point out the one obvious British Queen-consort that proves an important variable in how you get named both in your time and after? Queen Caroline. Technically "Caroline of Ansbach" because... well, that was the easier part of her name to remember: but, she's mainly just known as "Queen Caroline" (no other qualifier needed, even today). She was very popular: much more popular than her husband, in fact. By contrast... nobody calls Elizabeth Woodville just "Queen Elizabeth" (which she would have been called to her face) and it has nothing to do with her status as Queen-consort and everything to do with her being a... <dramatic shudder and drum roll> Woodville. Not that popular to the wider crowd (then or now) — hence, people trying to distance her from the King by any means going. Worse: even Kings or Queens don't keep their names: take Lady Jane Grey: de facto Queen and a Dudley, not a Grey — also, unable to put her stamp on the title Queen for long enough to keep it thanks to a lot of very dedicated spin upon her death. How about Bertie and David: or, maybe they should have been the other way around...? Or how about the surname "Plantagenet"? Actually, it wasn't their surname, as such, at the time — that was later, Tudor-paid historians trying to find a label that'd fit a "House" that was never singular in that way and provide a little contrast and legitimacy. In short: what you wind up being called depends on a number of factors, be you male or female: what you call yourself at the time either in public or private, what others call you (either out of respect or derision) and, how popular you (or members of the family you come from) are when your most commonly used name is written down by others at various times all count. Conventions may play a part. But, only a part.

  • I don't get why there's so many bastards running around. Clearly, there are ways of getting rid of unwanted pregnancies (something about tansy) and preventing them entirely (moon tea). You would think that at least noblewomen could avoid it, like Lysa or Cersei did. Whores also get pregnant all the time, wouldn't it be prudent for the whorehouses to keep moon tea on hand? Yes, it's difficult for them to get hold of a maester, but it's hardly impossible. Not to mention woods witches.
    • It's doubtful any form of birth control in a society at this level is foolproof. In addition, it's as likely as not that the mothers simply couldn't bring themselves to do it.
    • Lysa and Cersei didn't want to (Cersei, in fact, drank moon tea the one time Robert got her pregnant). As for common gals, depending on the lord doing the impregnating, being the mother of a bastard often means some level of financial security and physical protection, as in Real Life.
    • Speaking of which, was Lady Tanda really so deep in denial that she couldn't bring herself to get moon tea for poor Lollys?
    • We live in a time with ready access to various safe, highly effective and very affordable birth control. Consider the number of single/teenaged/low income mothers and absentee fathers today. Why would a quasi-medieval society be any better off?
    • Most of primitive abortive and contraceptive drugs are poisons, and weaken the female body until it's so sick it cannot bear the child anymore. It's really rare to see hormonal-based drugs, and as lot of modern females could tell you, some of those still makes you sick as hell. You don't poison yourself unless you're forced to.

  • The conclusion that Jon Snow is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen seems so inescapable, that one is given to wonder why people don't suspect it in universe. This is not to say that it is necessarily true — it could well turn out to be a red herring on Martin's part. The strangest part is that there seems to be no adequate explanation for how Lyanna Stark died, when you would think that's the first question anybody (Robert, first and foremost) would ask.
    • The R + L = J theory is built upon a very specific aspect of Rhaegar's personality (his obsession with the Prince who was Promised). And some little details that Ned's viewpoint chapters revealed about the last time he saw his sister. The vast majority of people in Westeros have absolutely no way of knowing about those things, and therefore have no reason to suspect that Jon Snow is anyone other than Ned's bastard.
      • The question remains: how did Lyanna Stark die, or more precisely, how do people think she died? When Ned Stark comes back north, cagey about the details of what went on in the Tower of Joy and with a baby about whose origins he is equally cagey, I find it hard to accept that nobody, anywhere, would at least develop suspicions.
      • Robert assumed that Rhaegar treated her badly enough for her to die. Ned never disabused him of this notion. Everyone south thinks that Ned bedded Ashara Dayne, who happened to commit suicide after delivering a baby right around that time, and everyone north just assumes that honor-ridden Ned is prickly enough about one indiscretion to not want to talk about it.
      • Plus, assuming that the theory is true, Ned would have actively attempted to discourage people from the notion. After all, revealing info like that would basically be planting a massive neon sign over Jon's head saying "Kill me! I'm a threat!" Notice that both times someone brings up Jon's mother to him, he responds in a way that convinces the other person to just drop it. First by scaring the living crap out of his wife, and then by telling Robert a small believable lie that gets him to forget about the kid.
    • It really comes down to the readers having lots of small pieces of information that are not, in their entirety or even at all (for some), known in-world. Rheagar being obsessed with the PTWP is one - only people close to him would have known that, and most of those people died in the war. Ned's internal oddities about Lyanna and Jon are the main clues (the bed of blood, the promise he made her, recalling all his children by name when imprisoned and leaving out Jon, etc) and not one of those was ever whispered outside of his own head. The timeline stuff helps, but it was a civil war - people were out of touch, it was chaos. So not many survivors are going to put the pieces together. Finally, it's a pretty crapsack world; no one is going to bat an eye at a great lord having a bastard around. No one. And in the end (as any trip to a Westeros forum will rapidly indicate), it's not an "inescapable" conclusion to all the readers.
      • For the record, that's "inescapable" in the sense of "cannot be safely dismissed," rather than "is certainly true."
    • Even if people don't suspect that Jon is Rhaegar and Lyanna's son, why would anyone believe that Ned fathered him? Ned is one of the most honorable characters in the series, so you'd think that there would be at least one person who'd realize that him siring an illegitimate child, especially after getting married, is ridiculously out of character.
      • The readers know it's out of character for Ned, but in-universe it's just accepted that high lords father bastards. That's just what happens when you marry strategically instead of for love.
      • Also it's worth noting that, IIRC, there are instances of people in-universe analyzing the whole "Ned fathered a bastard" thing and coming up to the conclusion that, if Ned is as honorable as everyone says he is, something really weird happened there.
      • Okay, I can buy that the average person wouldn't bat an eye about the Lord of Winterfell allegedly fathering a bastard, but what about people who've known Ned personally for years, like Robert (his best friend) or Jon Arryn (the man who fostered him)? Surely one of them would've gotten suspicious about the "yeah, the guy who might as well have 'honor' as his middle name cheated on his new wife and now has an illegitimate son" story.

  • Joffrey is shown as being uncontrollable by the small council and Cersei, and Tywin sends Tyrion to be the King's Hand for him and rein Joffrey in. When Joffrey has Eddard Stark executed, wouldn't it have been a smart move for Robb to send a message to Joffrey challenging him to single combat? It seems to me that Joffrey has such bad judgement and is so quick to anger that he would accept. Granted Cersei would probably try to sabotage it so Robb loses...
    • When Robb's grandfather Rickard did that, it got him, Brandon, Brandon's friends, all the fathers of Brandon's friends, along with all 200 men in his escort killed.
    • Is one even allowed to challenge the King to single combat over a grievance like that? I know you can have combat by champion if you are on trial, but that would have been Ned's right, I thought. And of course, Robb would have to run the risk that Joffery would not take his bait and just name Gregor Clegane, and then he's proper fucked.
    • Joffrey's stupidity is ever so slightly outweighed by his cowardice. Robb knows that Joffrey is full of shit; he'd figured that out the first time they met.
    • Even men like Stannis and the Blackfish are shown turning down such offers, because a) why take the chance of losing and/or b) they don't believe the other side will just surrender if they win.
  • Why was Robert's kingsguard so lousy? How did guys like Boros Blount, Meryn Trant, and Mandon Moore end up in the elite royal guard? Mandon Moore appears very clearly to have been a sociopath, but he was brought in by Jon Arryn. And on the subject of Jon Arryn, what was he thinking when he made Janos Slynt commander of the city watch, when it was fairly obvious that Slynt was not very competent, and certainly turned out not to be trustworthy?
    • The Kingsguard I don't know about, but it's mentioned from time to time that one of the ways Littlefinger manages to "make money out of thin air" during Robert's reign is by selling all sorts of offices to the highest bidder.
      • True, but would Jon Arryn really have let Baelish auction off places in the Kingsguard? It's one thing to let him sell off positions as tax farmers or customs agents; that's not a good thing, but it's at least understandable. But Robert's bodyguards? For that matter, is the Kingsguard the kind of organization someone would want to buy a place in? They never marry or have legitimate children (they're not really supposed to have children at all, or even to engage in the activity that produces children), and they don't inherit estates or other property. Some of them throughout the history of Westeros have wielded political power, it's true, but that's not the norm, and generally only the Lord Commander has real political influence. But again, would Jon Arryn really have let Littlefinger go that far? Is that how Janos Slynt got his job? Slynt wasn't exactly a rich man, so it seems unlikely he could have bought his post, even if Arryn would have let that position go to the highest bidder.
    • There's a few possibilities regarding the Kingsguard. The first is that, as Robert loved him some tournaments, they were simply awarded out as prizes and those guys happened to be good jousters. The other possiblity is that, as Robert spent all his time hunting whores and fucking boars, that the Kingsguard was largely chosen for their discretion rather than skill.
      • With five of the seven posts up for grabs after the Rebellion, perhaps quality control was less of a priority.Is there a sense, too, that Cersei pulled strings to get her favourites on the Kingsguard? They all seem loyal to her ahead of her husband.
    • The honor and prestige of the Kingsguard makes it a good political appointment as anything. Under normal circumstances the Kingsguard has a low rate of turnover so there's always a few good knights like Ser Barristan, or the other members of Aerys' Kingsguard, but with the majority of positions vacant it's likely they got plugged up by people that Robert appointed as political favors or as payment. "Sure, I'll raise my levies in support of your rebellion, as long as you promise a spot for my son on your Kingsguard!"
    • There had just been a civil war, there's less spare noble sons floating around. Then you can't recruit from the North and the Iron Island for religious reasons or Dorne or the Reach because they were enemies. You have to fill five spots at once. Boros Blount and Meryn Trant were capable when they were chosen, but they got fat and cruel respectively. Mandon Moore is a sociopath but deadly. Aerys Oakheart is naive but gallant. Preston Greenfield is thick but brave. It's also implied that most Kingsguard were around average, it's just the really good and bad who get remembered.
    • It was explicitly stated in the first book that at least half of them were Cersei's lackeys. Robert, in his typically neglectful manner, let her stack the Kingsguard with men who were more loyal to her than they were decent knights. Just look at how they dismissed Barristan the Bold, one of the most respected knights alive, period, because they wanted to make Jaimie Lord Commander and give The Hound a white cloak.
  • Maester Pycelle said he poisoned Jon Arryn with Tears of Lys because it seemed clear to him the Cersei wanted him to. Then Lysa admitted that she did the exact same thing so she could be with Petyr (whose idea it was in the first place.) Did they both do it, unknowing of the other, for separate reasons? Was Petyr acting on Cersei's orders, and Pycelle just happened to pick up on it as well? Did GRRM make a mistake, or I just read something wrong?
    • I'm fairly certain that Maester Pycelle only ever admitted to letting Jon die due to Cersei's wishes. Also, it's highly unlikely that Littlefinger was acting on Cersei's orders; all indications are that he had Jon Arryn killed specifically to draw attention to the Villainous Incest.
    • Pycelle knew about the incest and tried to protect the Lannisters by letting Jon Arryn die. Remember he sent away Maester Coleman, who was purging Jon and could have saved him, and did all the "care" himself. He wrongly assumed that Cersei had poisoned Jon. Hilariously, Varys later mentions the Tears of Lys in a council meeting and Pycelle does a double-take, thinking that Varys might have poisoned Jon instead.
  • Why is Westerosi society so heavily militarized? This is a realm that hasn't faced a foreign invasion in three hundred years, since which time it has been politically united. Why does every landowner spend so much of his income supporting large bodies of knights and men-at-arms, just to fight the other landowners of his own country? In the real middle ages in Europe, the landowners retained their private military forces and political privileges as long as they did in no small part because their central governments, i.e., the kings, needed them to fight foreign enemies. Why didn't the Targaryens spend three hundred years trying to disarm the landowners as they did the faith, and as real life medieval kings invariably did whenever they could?
    • Because prior to that invasion they were seven/eight distinct kingdoms that needed to protect themselves from each other, and being united under Aegon's rule didn't mean they wanted to disarm themselves. The Targaryens didn't have the power to get rid of all the lords' armies, they had only just enough to make them bend the knee. Trying to disarm them would have resulted in revolution by the entire realm. Also, rebellions or other misconduct by lords were not uncommon throughout the Targaryen reign, and the forces of the other lords were needed to put them down.
      • The Targaryens had dragons for the first century or so of their rule. They had the power to dictate whatever terms they liked to the landowning class; they extinguished two of the preexisting royal lines. They also did disarm the faith, after all. As for your last point, you are confusing cause and effect: the landowners were not armed because rebellions were not uncommon; rebellions were not uncommon because the landowners were armed.
      • No, even with the dragons they didn't have enough power to disarm the realm against the wishes of every single lord in it. Dragons are not invincible, the use and the threat of them was only enough to subdue the kingdoms to the point of accepting Targaryen rulership. Actually fighting all the armies of all the kingdoms with the dragons would have ended with great losses for the native Westerosi but ultimately a Targaryen defeat. That's what they'd face if they insisted on disarming the lords, so why bother trying? Note that the Targaryens made very few changes to the cultures of the kingdoms, adapting themselves to Westeros more than vice versa, such as by adopting the Andal religion and knightly traditions rather than continuing to worship the Valyrian gods. Keeping life much as it had been was one of the selling points for accepting them as monarchs. Disarming the Faith Militant is a much different proposition, as they were much less organized and the Targaryens had the support and force of arms of most of the lords behind them in doing it. Maegor achieved it by putting a bounty on the head of any member of the order.
      • I don't know what you're basing your claim that the Targaryens would have ultimately lost on. In any case, you're also ignoring a key fact: supporting large numbers of knights and men-at-arms is very expensive. Why would the Westerosi landowners have wanted to continue paying such expenses if they didn't have to? That, after all, was a big part of why real life medieval kings were in fact able to disarm the nobility over time.
      • 1) Vastly superior numbers and the fact that dragons aren't invincible. The conquered monarchs bent the knee because it was the less costly option to them, but that meant joining their strength to the Targaryens' own, not wiping it out. 2) You may not feel they had a good reason to maintain their own levies, but they wouldn't agree. The idea of getting rid of them would seem like suicide to the lords of Westeros, true or not. I think you're overstating the degree to which they were politically unified. They don't trust each other. Think of it less as king with nobles under him and more as emperor with kings under him; that's also a more accurate reflection of Westeros' size.
    • The lords of Westeros don't maintain standing armies; they keep levies. In times of war, rebellion or internal strife they call up the bannermen, who call up their levies, and then they have an army. And with good reason, given the state of things in Westeros. They need to maintain some military presence for defense of the realm, as well as defense against other lords, bandits and outlaws, and wild tribes. The Vale is plagued by tribes so powerful that it's too dangerous to travel the region without an armed party. Outlaws and banditry seems fairly common - enough, at least, that a lord would want some men-at-arms and knights to patrol his borders. Consider as well that political rivalries and minor disputes can easily result in open warfare; Ramsay Bolton sent troops to take hold of a neighboring fiefdom, for instance, and the Ironmen are always raiding the coast. Actual standing armies are small, but any of the Seven Kingdoms can call for men to wield weapons and stand in formation.
    • Its also worth pointing out that in Jon Arryn's lifetime, for example, there was the Greyjoy Rebellion, Robert's Rebellion, Tywin Lannister putting the Reynes and Tarbecks to the sword, the threat of the Kingswood Brotherhood, and the War of the Ninepenny Kings. None of that includes the actual wars and battles that take place in the books themselves. That's a whole lot of warring, and it seems that there was a need for a highly militarized culture.
    • Also, soldiers fulfil a lot of the roles we have separate agencies for - they act as police and bodyguards to their Lords, unlike today.

  • Why does Stannis bother with having Courtnay Penrose killed by Melisandre? If he needs to have Robert's bastard to prove the incest, then wouldn't it be a lot easier to just tell Courtnay as opposed to besieging the castle and taking a hit to his own health in order to have it done?
    • Cortnay probably wouldn't have believed him about Edric being safe. Also, Stannis needed the castle for strategic purposes and because it was his by rights as Lord Baratheon, and Cortnay was refusing to give it to him despite that.
    • Stannis and Melisandre wanted Edric as a Human Sacrifice to call forth a dragon, as he had the blood of the king. Courtnay wouldn't have known that, but he clearly suspected Stannis' motives, and wasn't prepared to trust him.

  • Was it not a very stupid idea to send Ned to the Wall in the first place? Think about it: First of all, you have to get him there. Which means escorting the almost universally well-liked Lord of Winterfell through the North. You would literally have to send an army with him to make sure none of the other lords or his own son just frees him before they even get there (and thus before Ned would have to swear the oath). Even if you get him there safely, Ned is very likely to be on fairly good terms with the Lord Commander, the Starks being one of the few houses to actually consider the Night's Watch at least marginally important. His brother is the First Ranger, his bastard the Commander's steward - he would have plenty of allies at the Wall, who could easily make it seem like he took the oath, but actually didn't. So he could just leave the Wall once his captors (as mentioned, a whole army) return South. And even if everything goes according to plan and Ned is bound to the Night's Watch, he is still a big risk. He would be very likely to become the next Lord Commander, and at the same time have many loyalists throughout the North. He could do what neither Robb nor Jon managed to do, make the Watch join forces with the other Northmen. Yes, Sansa and Arya would be held hostage at King's Landing, but remember, this is what happened anyway. So, executing him - still a stupid choice, because it made a war inevitably. But allowing him to take the black - equally stupid (which Littlefinger probably realized as well, but he had his own agenda). The smartest move would have been to keep him hostage at King's Landing. This would force Robb's loyalty, and keep Ned away from his power base.
    • Ned is a man of honor, and so if he had sworn himself to join the Night's Watch then that is what he will do. He wouldn't sully the Watch's honor by trying to unite with the North and wage war on the south. There's no point in having him fake-swear an oath to the Watch anyways, since the Night's Watch are supposed to keep out of political intrigues and are in desperate need of manpower. The whole point of sending Ned to the Wall was to avoid civil war, something that would have been neatly done if they had shipped him off and left Robb as the Lord of Winterfell. Robb would have little motivation to continue the war and next to none to start it anew by attacking a Night's Watch convoy (which would pretty much ruin his credibility with everyone, even the loyal lords in the North). Sansa and Arya would still be hostages, but Sansa would marry Joffrey (becoming his Queen and diminishing her value as a hostage) and Arya might actually accomplish her escape to the North with no war in the Riverlands. The whole reason they wanted to send him to the Wall anyways was to neutralize him as a political enemy without alienating the North and weakening the throne's position. It was a decent plan that only fell apart when Joffrey decided to kill him, because then it made a peaceful resolution impossible. Ned becoming a brother of the Watch wouldn't have been a happy ending, mind you, but it wouldn't have triggered any sort of rebellion in the North.
      • Ned is a man of honor, granted, but I would think that even he would at least consider breaking a promise he had to make at swordpoint, to a king he himself considers illegitimate. He would NOT break the vow of the Night's Watch - if he took the black he would stay there, no doubt. But the promise to actually GO there - maybe. Also, don't forget that what I wrote up there is to be understood from the perspective of the Lannisters. It's not so much what WE (the readers) think Ned would do, but what THEY think Ned would do. And his honor was already the only thing that has prevented him from foiling their plans, it was extremely risky to think that he would still feel compelled to uphold a promise made to Joffrey. We know that he may, but from Cersei's point of view that's a gamble. And don't forget that A war was going to happen in any case. It was already clear that at least Stannis would try to seize the throne, and likely Renly as well. The Lannister's knew that Jon Arryn (the first to find out about Joffrey's illegitimacy and a father figure to Ned) had already conspired with Stannis, and Ned himself with Renly. The risk that Ned, if sent back north, would try to get the North involved in the war on either side was very big. Imagine the war of the five kings, only it's just four kings, because Ned has no reason to declare himself King in the North and just supports Stannis. The situation would be exactly the same as it unfolded anyway (Robb was never fighting for the Iron Throne itself, just for independence and revenge), only Ned is a much more experienced commander and would probably prevent the political blunders Robb made concerning his marriage. From the perspective of the Lannisters, executing him should still be safer than sending him back north. But, as I said, the safest thing would be to just keep him around as a hostage, and maybe let him go years later as a sign of goodwill once Joffrey's claim is consolidated (read: when Stannis and Renly are dead). They have him under control, and additionally, it deprives Robb of authority. If Ned dies or takes the black he becomes the successor, but if Ned is still alive and can't leave King's Landing, Robb would be acting Lord of Winterfell, but never truly.
      • That's actually a valid point. It has been stated a few times that in court, vows taken from the point of a sword are not considered completely binding (I think mainly marriage, bur YMMV). And there is one further bit of evidence to this theory that some of us are forgetting. Before he was killed, Ned lied about this treason charges FOR THIS DAUGHTERS. His final act proved that even a honourable man like Eddard Stark is willing to break his oaths for his family. Had Ned be ALLOWED to take the black, I am sure Yoren, if not a few Lord in the North, whole free him on the pretexts that he escaped. I agree, had Ned taken the black and said the words, not even Ygritte would have him break his vows, but before then, during the travel? I gotta believe Ned would have been the next King in the North....

On an unrelated note, do you guys get the feeling that Ned has a further part to play somehow?

  • From a Lannister perspective, the ideal consequence is for Ned to go back to Winterfell without ever having said a word against the throne. However, they arrested Ned for treason and from there it was two choices - make him take the black or execute him. Everyone knew that executing him was a stupid idea, and he has a reputation as a man of honor (indeed, that's what got him in that position) and if he says he'll take the black, he'll take the black. Ned is especially notorious for NOT exercising Loophole Abuse. At that point in the story, Robb had already called his Bannermen explicitly to rescue his father and there was war in the Riverlands. Had Ned been exiled to the Watch as intended, Robb would have stood down (after negotiating a prisoner exchange) and the Lannisters would have pulled out of the Riverlands. Then when Stannis showed up, the War of Five Kings would have only been between Renly, Stannis and Joffrey and maybe Balon, since Robb has no reason to rebel against the throne without the motivation of avenging his father's death. Also note that at that point the upcoming war isn't as apparent to the Lannisters as it is to the more savvy characters and to the reader. Even during the actual course of events everyone pegs Stannis as not worth their trouble and Renly as the real threat anyways since it literally took magic for Stannis to gain his strength. And the threat of a combined Lannister/Tully/Stark/Martell/Arryn army might have been enough of a deterrent for Renly and Balon. And maybe Stannis.
  • Agreed - especially that last bit. Remember: half of the uprisings that went on during the War of the Five Kings (definitely Balon, quite possibly also Renly and Highgarden) only went on because people smelled blood in the water where the Lannisters were concerned. If they had actually managed to peacefully take down one of the most important enemies — and one of their only enemies who was acting out of principle and not just taking advantage of an opportunity — then they would have showed their strength, and some of their enemies might have lost their nerve and never risen up in the first place.
  • Also, remember that Sansa would still be wed to Joffrey and Ned wouldn't risk his daughters. Also since it took Joffrey actually killing Ned for Sansa to realize he was an asshole things might have looked brighter for a while. I also have a hard time imagening ALL of the Watch loving Ned. Just because he has a few close friends and allies doesn't mean he has the influnce to make all of them break their vows and declare war against the kingdom.

  • How exactly did Khal Drogo melt gold? Gold melts at over 1000 °C, which shouldn't be easy to achieve (especially in the TV Series where you can see the gold melting in a regular cauldron over a campfire).
    • Pure rage.
    • Fire probably burns hotter than you think. A campfire giving an orange glow is burning between 1100-1200°C, so melting gold is certainly within its power. It would probably take a while though, and the position of the pot might need some careful calibration.
    • Rule of Drama.
    • According to show people, it's Dothraki hybrid gold.
      • Not sure what "hybrid" means, but gold in jewelry is frequently alloyed with copper, and while both gold and copper have melting points over 1000 C, a gold-copper alloy actually is more like 900 C, which a large fire with the right kind of fuel could easily get over. So if by "hybrid" they mean "alloy", it's even more possible.

  • Why does the Faith of Seven not seem to exist at all in Essos? The Faith began among the Andals back when they still lived in Andalos, in northwestern Essos, and the Andals brought it with them when they invaded Westeros. But are we to believe that every Andal crossed the Narrow Sea, and that no adherents of the Faith remained in Essos? It's not as though the Narrow Sea is an insurmountable barrier to a seafaring people, which the Andals obviously were. So what happened to the Faith in Essos?
    • We know that is has a small scale practice in Essos, as there's a Sept-Beyond-the-Sea in Braavos, though it may cater mostly to Westerosi sailors. Is it possibly the case that, even though the Faith originated in Essos, it withered and died there, or was eventually displaced by other religions even as it thrived across the Narrow Sea? We are talking a period of 6000 years so it's not like time is lacking. Or is it perhaps the case that religious differences partially motivated the Andals' migration to begin with?
    • It probably does exist in Essos – after all, we haven’t exactly seen all of Essos so far. It’s possible the Faith exists on a small scale in the cosmopolitan Free Cities. Or it may exist in a different form in Essos – for example, a sub-sect that believes in only one of the Seven. Or there's a chance that the remaining believers in Essos were been wiped out due to natural calamities or for political reasons. Alternatively, it could be that all adherents of the Faith left Essos, maybe because of religious persecution, as the above troper points out, or maybe they were just a very small community. There’s also the possibility that the Faith originated in Westeros, i.e. the Andals didn’t bring it with them, they developed it only after they came to Westeros.
    • Just to give a real life analogy: Buddhism is very much a minority religion in India, its place of origin, but is a majority religion in a number of countries it was "exported" to. And Christians are also not too numerous in their spiritual homeland.
    • The timeline for the Andal migration is a little wonky, as in universe sources can't agree on whether it was six, four, or two thousand years before the start of the series. Assuming it was the four thousand number for argument's sake, that would put it about a thousand years after the founding of Valyria while the Freehold was expanding to conquer Essos. Valyria had it's own religion; it could be that the Faith of the Seven, being incompatable with other faiths, came into conflict with the Valyrian faith and like anyone who opposed Valyria, lost out and were driven from Essos by the dragon lords.

  • Why did Stannis immediately march on King's Landing after taking Storm's End, and why did he attack from the south? Surely he must have realized that even if he had taken the city, the war would not have been over as long as there still were hostile or even potentially hostile armies opposing him in the field? Taking King's Landing doesn't do anything to deal with the Lannister or Tyrell armies. On the other hand, defeat the Lannisters, and defeat or win over the Tyrells, and King's Landing falls easily. And even if he were determined to take the city, why not move his army by sea to the northern side of Blackwater Bay and come at the city from the landward side? That would have seemed to offer some critical advantages. First, he would not have had to attack the city across a river; the Blackwater Rush is wide, deep, and fast. Second, he would have been able to attack on a broader front, since he could have attacked both the western and northern side of the city, which would have enabled him to make maximum use of his numerical advantage over the defenders. Third, he would not have had to march through forests to get at the city; the open country to the north offered two critical advantages: first, he would not have had to deal with Tyrion's clansmen raiders, and, second, he would have been able to see an enemy army advancing on his rear in the flat open country north of the city. Lastly, he knew that there was a potentially hostile Tyrell army at Bitterbridge, which the Lannisters were moving to link up with after their defeat at the Red Fork, (granted, Stannis might not have known that last part in time), and moving his army to the northern side of the river would have kept the river between him and his enemies. And he had complete control of the sea, commanding as he did the royal fleet. So why didn't he use it?
    • Stannis is prickly about honor and justice and won't abide a pretender sitting on his throne while the other lords, who are rightfully his to command, shuffle their feet and pretend not to see him. If he takes King's Landing, there's a good chance that the rest of Westeros will fall in line - sure, not the Lannisters or the Northmen, but the rest of them would have no one else to throw their weight behind in Stannis' view. He sends his vanguard up from the south, and the rest of his army will be transported by sea to King's Landing and the north shore. The plan was for the ships to then begin ferrying his troops from the south shore to the north shore and for the ill prepared city to fall within the evening. Tyrion and his plots and schemes stalled him long enough to cause the defeat. Since Stannis planned to have the war all but won within a single evening, he didn't at the time worry about the Tyrells who no longer had a horse to back in this particular race. He might also expected for Tywin's army to be held up by the Northmen in the Riverlands. And it would have been, too, if Edmure hadn't held the fords. It wasn't a bad strategy, per se, it was just reliant on a single, precise cut to the heart of the reigning king. If he'd succeeded, Joffrey, Myrcella, Tommen, Cersei, Tyrion and the rest would have died there and then and no one would be left alive with a legitimate claim to the Iron Throne but Stannis. Also, remember that he was assured of his victory by Melisandre and might have expected even the most half-baked strategy to ultimately see him through.
      • A small correction: Myrcella was in Dorne and wouldn't have died there and then.
    • Even if Stannis knew that, capturing the capital and executing whatever members of the royal family he found there would have tremendous psychological impact. As lampshaded in the riddle of the king, the priest and the rich man each urging the sellsword to kill the other, the impression of power is just as important as armies or gold. This is lampshaded when Cersei says she'd like to move the capital to Casterly Rock, and Jaime points out that it would make the king look like just another pretender if he wasn't in King's Landing.

  • Why didn't Littlefinger help the Starks win the war? After all, he wanted Catelyn Stark as his wife. It seems to me that there was a lot he might have done to help the Starks defeat the Lannisters, and he could have negotiated for Catelyn's hand in marriage as his price. I suppose that if Catelyn and Robb were aware that he had betrayed Ned, that would have prevented any such deal, but it's not clear to me that that was common knowledge.
    • He'd already moved on to Sansa by this point. He'd asked Cersei permission to marry her even before Ned lost his head. It's almost a shame we don't see what might have happened if Petyr had sabotaged the Lannister side. And Catelyn was so worried about her daughters, she'd have married him easily if he brought Sansa back. In the show, Cat knows of Petyr's role; in the books, she thinks fondly of him on occasion.
    • Littlefinger did offer to help Ned (in a way that would also put him in a position of power) but when Ned Stark turned down his suggestion of making peace with the Lannisters he switched sides so Cersei would owe him a favour instead. Taking sides then (even covertly) against the rich, powerful and cunning Lord Tywin Lannister would be a big risk, so it makes sense for him to just sit back and watch to see how things develop. As it happened, by waiting for the right moment before offering his services, Petyr gains control over both the Vale and the Reach, while the Starks and Tullys against whom he has a longstanding grudge end up losing everything.

  • Why did Eddard agree to stay on as Robert's Hand after Jaime killed Jory and Eddard's other men? Robert had once again refused to listen to Eddard or take his advice. In fact, in the entire time that Eddard was Robert's Hand, Robert never took Eddard's advice about anything, ever. He didn't listen to Eddard about what happened with Joffrey on the Kingsroad, he didn't listen about the unaffordable expense of the tourney, or the need to cut spending more generally, he didn't listen about trying to have Dany killed, and then, he didn't listen about the need to punish Jaime for the murders, or the legitimate reasons for arresting Tyrion. In fact, the only time Eddard wielded any power at all as Robert's Hand was while Robert was away, and Eddard ordered the execution of Gregor Clegane. And we all know how that turned out. So why didn't Eddard just refuse to come back? Why not calmly explain to Robert that, for all their friendship, Robert obviously didn't think Eddard's counsel was any good, or worth listening to, and that Robert, therefore, should have found a Hand whose advice he liked better? Why not say, in effect, 'Robert, I want to help you, but I'm obviously not helping you, so what's the point?'
    • Because Robert told him that if he resigned again, he'd name Jamie Lannister Hand and that is the last thing in the world Ned wants.
      • Would Robert really have done that? I got the impression that he was being sarcastic. Would Eddard really have given in to that sort of crude extortion?
    • When it comes down to it, Eddard is loyal to his friend. He knows that the king's life is in danger, and that the regime owes a vast amount of money to the Lannisters, which they're using as leverage to gain powerful offices. He'd have to take the threat seriously.
    • Because he knows that he is still probably the best option. He failed so far, but he might still hope to change Robert's mind in the future. Jaime Lannister was an empty threat, obviously, but if Ned quits SOMEONE less trustworthy is going to be appointed. And it's probably going to be someone of the Lannister's choosing.
    • Robert didn't choose Ned to be Hand of the King to contradict him; he chose Ned because he needs him to defend him from the Lannisters and to rule the Seven Kingdoms in his stead just like Jon Arryn did before him. There is not much evidence suggesting that Jon Arryn contradicted Robert like Ned did, as this was not the kind of influence he had over Robert, considering as Viserys said, there had been attempts against his life from King Robert before AGOT; as such it's safe to assume that Jon Arryn didn't/was unable to hinder Robert from his plots. Then again, Ned is not Jon Arryn. As Ned can go through Robert unlike Jon Arryn, he takes the office of the Hand once again because he believes that he can sway his friend and King.

  • How, exactly, did Robert bankrupt the realm? Aerys left the coffers overflowing and Robert had the financial genius that is Littlefinger working for him. It's mentioned that Robert held an over abundance of tourneys and feasts, but tourneys were mentioned as being a big boon to the economy and unless those feasts involved smelting entirely new sets of jewel-encrusted gold plates and silver-wear each time he threw one, I'm having a hard time believing that drove the kingdom into more than six million dragons in debt.
    • Oh, that's easy. Lot's of medieval kings managed to do that. Read the history of the reign of Henry VI, who managed to bankrupt England (the books are inspired, loosely, by the Wars of the Roses, after all); he was giving away money to fund charities and educational institutions, while his wife (who, or rather, whose image in Yorkist propaganda, may have been the inspiration for Cersei) was giving away money and crown lands to her favorites. The simple fact is, though, that it's not hard to spend money. Consider that Robert managed to spend 150,000 gold dragons for the one tournament for Ned; Robert was throwing multiple events like that every year. Don't forget, too, that Robert had to fund the war against the Greyjoys, and his initial rebellion; it's not unlikely that some portion of Aerys' treasury went to pay Robert's debts from the war. Also, Littlefinger argued that the tourney would be good for the economy. You should not treat everything Littlefinger says as having come down from Mt. Sinai. Proponents of government spending always argue that it will stimulate the economy. The truth is that it usually only moves wealth around, wasting some in the process.
      • Government spending can stimulate the economy...if it is allocated to the right sectors. The tournament basically hands a sizable portion of the king's treasury to the winner for a few jousts and melees, instead of devoting it to development and infrastructure. Littlefinger was able to generate a lot of funds as Master of Coin, but because of his acumen, others are likely to believe him because, well, how could he be wrong?
      • The stimulation of the economy comes from people arriving in Kings Landing, staying at inns, buying food and armour, paying whores, etc so money goes to smiths, innkeepers, madams and merchants. Not giving money to rich sons of lords. Few of the knights we see competing are doing it for the winners' purses either. Jaime, Loras, the Hound, Beric etc are doing it for a love of the sport, to get their name in history or to defend their title. A better way might be to make the purses smaller and for the Crown to subsidize, say, armour.
    • Littlefinger wasn't Robert's first master of coin either. Ned mentions LF's "beleaguered predecessor", whom Robert appointed as a political boon but who wasn't very good. Robert would have had post-war expenses too: build a new fleet of ships to take Dragonstone, a lavish wedding to Cersei, buy food to ensure that displaced-by-war smallfolk didn't starve, etc. LF is certainly lying - his job security is derived from that fact that there is no one else who can pay the Crown's debts. It's in his interest to ensure that the debts are never paid off. Why Jon Arryn didn't interfere on the other hand is the real question.
      • Arryn did try to interfere — Robert just wouldn't curb his spending.
    • The popular theory currently is that Littlefinger purposely bankrupted the realm for shits and giggles (well not really). Littlefinger is noted as being incredibly business-savvy and shrewd, purchasing food supplies when they are in low demand and being involved in many other enterprises that provide him with a steady flow of gold. It is also stated later on that Littlefinger's family is from Braavos, where the Iron Bank is located. Also, I believe someone on Reddit did the math and actually calculated the amount and frequency of tourneys Robert would have to have held to put the realm in such debt.

  • Why is it desertion/oathbreaking for Jon to fight Ramsay Bolton? In his letter, he promised to attack the Watch if his demands weren't met, and Jon couldn't meet the demands even if that was the correct thing to do, since he doesn't have the people Ramsay wants. It's hard to believe that the rule about taking no part extends to the Watch not defending itself if the enemy happens to be from south of the Wall.
    • Defending yourself from southern attacks? That's probably fine. Engaging in preemptive strikes because of one guy's possibly empty threat? That's taking a side.
      • So they're supposed to wait until the enemy's already at the non-exitistent gate of the deliberately indefensible castle? That letter was basically a declaration of war.
      • Yeah, from a crazy dumbass who sent it entirely to taunt Jon. He might have been being honest, but it's just as likely that he was full of shit and wasn't actually going to follow through.
      • Castle Black can't be defended from this side of the wall. They just barely managed to defend it against the wildlings, and now they're in worse straits than ever. They can't take the risk. If you declare war on someone, they're entitled to defend themselves. And I would submit that you'd have to be a crazy dumbass to declare war on the Watch.
      • Even if he was being serious about attacking the Watch, what are the odds that Roose would let him go through with it? There's nothing to be gained by attacking the Night's Watch, and doing so would be a waste of time and resources.
      • The point isn't whether he would do it, the point is that he said he would and now can't complain when the threat is taken seriously. It's not as though Jon was going to weigh in on the question of who gets the iron throne, just take on a bit-player. If you say you have a bomb at an airport, even if you're obviously not serious, what do you expect to happen? The Watch would be idiotic not to take the threat (which might be empty, but isn't obviously so) seriously, given that they can't defend Castle Black.
      • There's a sense of it being the 'final straw', with all Jon's other decisions and alleged swayed loyalties — helping Stannis, being too close to the Red Woman, letting wildlings through the wall, settling them on land in the North, even letting them join the Night's Watch. Remember Jon's been the subject of a determined smear campaign by his enemies.
      • Because they assume that Ramsay only threatens the Watch because they cooperated with Stannis. From their point of view it's very likely that Ramsay would back off if they get rid of Melisandre and the remainder of Stannis host. And they think that Jon is in their way of doing that.
      • Also notice that the people who cheerfully vounteered to follow Jon against Ramsay were wildlings. The Lord Commander was about to lead wildlings against the northern lords. What was it Jon thought of Mance before what he thought was his execution? "He did nothing but lead an army of wildlings against the realm he had sworn to defend", was it?

  • When Robb executes Rickard Karstark, much is made of his observance of the old Stark way of the man who passes the sentence swinging the sword. Just pages before this, he ordered the hanging of Rickard's five conspirators. Why isn't it the same for them?
    • A man only has so much time in a day. I don't imagine Lord Eddard went around lopping the hands off every thief or head off every traitor in the north. Robb had other things to deal with and only executed Rickard himself to make an example of him.
    • Also, they were all being executed for the same crime, the whole point of the "do your own justice" thing is proving that you really are willing to condemn people to death by doing it yourself. Robb killed the guy who was in charge of it, he doesn't need to do it to all of the prisoners.

  • Why doesn't Melisandre use her leech and fire trick again? Granted, we don't know that it actually works for sure but the people around her believe that it does and she's practically awash with kings' blood in Dance with Jon (a king's brother, or, if not, certainly still king's blood), Shireen, and a wildling leader who uses "Kingsblood" as an epithet (granted he's several generations removed and probably descended from a King-Beyond-The-Wall's brother but that's still a blood tie and apparently Kings Beyond The Wall count); so why has nobody suggested that she curse Euron and Tommen like she did the others, with Tommen gone Stannis' claim would be a lot, lot stronger because Tommen is the other male claimant whose claim derives from Robert?
    • Just guessing here, but while killing Robb did have an effect, killing Joffrey and Balon just led to other people stepping up to take their place. Maybe she thinks that will only happen again?
    • That is if you believe her leech and fire trick did anything. Robb was killed by a Bolton/Lannister/Frey plot. Balon by Euron. Joffrey by Littlefinger/Tyrells. It's more likely that Mellissandre predicted their deaths and that's why she names them. To try and make it look like she has more power than she really does.
    • She can't use Jon's blood because he's a king's brother instead of a king's son, same reason why she couldn't use Stannnis or Renly's blood despite being Robert's brothers. And even if she could, she had denounced Robb as a pretender king, therefore even if his blood would work, she might not do it on general principle.
      • What about Mance? Even if the leech trick is actually just theatrics (and the fact that she didn't try to use Mance's blood for anything similar might support this), the point is that the people around her seem to believe it; they think that they saw her use Edric Storm's blood to "kill" the other three kings, and they think that they captured and killed Mance, so it seems odd that none of them are wondering what Mance's death was meant to achieve. Bear in mind that if Tommen was to suddently die, Stannis would be Robert's heir in the eyes of everyone except the Dornish and because most of the Kingdoms have a Dany shaped blind-spot, many nobles would have probably rallied to him because they saw him as the only remaining claimant of the Iron Throne, at least until "Aegon" arrived
      • Actually, Myrcella would still be Robert's heir before Stannis after Tommen's death if the Lannisters ignored the old Targaryen rule about female inheritors to the Iron Throne coming after all male ones (established in the first Dance of the Dragons), which they would, because it's to their advantage to do so. And they can justify it because Stannis was attainted for his "rebellion", and because they're not Targaryens.
      • Well, Jon, being a Stark bastard, does have the blood of the Kings of Winter in his veins. Though, maybe being three hundred years removed makes it too weak.
    • Melisandre explains that right after the death of Robb: Other would rise up and claim to be kings. Stannis believes that his claims are already proven well beyond doubt, and that all nobles who don't follow him already are simply searching for an excuse to not give him the throne, because they fear and dislike him. And let's be honest, he's not far off with that.

  • I don't think I've ever fully understood knighthoods in Westeros. It's clear that the position has religious dimensions (Dany first sees Ser Jorah, Illyrio describes him as having been "Anointed with the Seven Oils by the High Septon himself"). Luwin tells Bran, "To be a knight you must stand your vigil in a sept, and be anointed with seven oils to consecrate your vows. In the north, only a few of the great houses worship the Seven. The rest honor the old gods, and name no knights" Yet he still estimates 300 knights in the host that Robb rides south with, which seems a lot, considering, but perhaps the Seven have more sway in some parts of the North than others. But how would a man like Rodrik Cassel (from Winterfell, where there are a apparently so few followers of the Seven that Ned built a small sept specifically for Catelyn) end up being a ser?
    • The hard and dirty rule seems to be that "any knight can make a knight." The religious stuff seems to provide the motivation for making a knight rather than the actual mechanism. In other words — all you *really* need to become a knight is to be dubbed by another knight. So, any knight in the North technically CAN make a knight. It's just that few actually bother to do so, because if you don't worship the Seven you might just not see the point. It's like getting married — technically, all sorts of people can marry a couple, from ship captains to government officials, but many people don't feel right if they don't get married in a church, and people who aren't religious might not see the point of getting married at all. (I'm setting aside Luwin's statement because it was, I think, in the first book, which had a number of inaccuracies like that).
      • So a relatively rare case of Early-Installment Weirdness? Later on Beric makes Gendry a knight without any of that "standing in a sept" stuff.
      • Yeah, they're rare, but a few do crop up. I can't remember the details, but there was some kind of observation about Jaime (?) possibly becoming Warden of the East after Jon Arryn's death, which shouldn't have been an option based on the rules that the later books establish, something that GRRM later admitted was just a mistake. Also, Tyrion's tumbling abilities (which pop up in the first book when he does some kind of flip off a gargoyle the first time he meets Jon Snow) were supposed to be dropped until GRRM decided he wanted to make them canonical after all in the latest book. Little things like that.
      • That's the formal version of the whole knighting shebang, being told to a boy of eight. In actual wartime conditions, most of that would be ignored.
    • In medieval times, knights were men expected to uphold a level of religious piety, essentially making them warrior monks. In practice, devout adherence to religion was often overlooked. Knighthood in Westeros is a tradition associated with worship of the Seven. The Northmen - who don't believe in the Seven - do not have knighthood. If you are a Northman who worships the Seven, however, you can indeed be knighted. A knight can make another knight and in wartime being knighted is more along the lines of a field promotion as opposed to the great honor it is in peacetime.
      • Is the "knight can make a knight" thing ever explicitly described as being a wartime measure? And doesn't the original question stand: even if the religious dimensions of the position are now an artifact (after all, somebody like Gregor Clegane is leagues removed from a warrior monk), doesn't the North still have way more knights than makes sense?
      • In reality the conditions of knighthood differed depending on date and locale. A knight could make a knight, though only knightly orders really utilized the ability. The North is half of the continent of Westeros, so having only 300 knights ride with Robb Stark strikes me as lowballing it.
      • Half the continent, but by far the least populated of the Seven Kingdoms. Still, 300 out of 18-20,000 hardly seems like a lot when the other kingdoms were fielding at least over a thousand knights each.
      • These "knights" are probably from White Harbour, which is part of the North that actually has the Faith as their dominant religion.
      • The exact number given by Luwin is "three hundred, perhaps four... among three thousand armored lances who are not knights" (emphasis added). As far as that indicates, Robb has plenty of men who are geared and fight like knights, without actually being them.
    • Again, the key here (as far as I can tell) is that it's not that the North *couldn't* make knights so much as that they *didn't,* since it's a semi-religious office in a religion that they largely didn't practice. Robb's lack of knights certainly didn't hold him back in battle, so it sounds like he had plenty of people who could fight like knights and arm themselves like knights — just not a lot of people who had been officially granted that title. (Luwin's story was probably the simplified version of that story that you'd tell to a little kid who believed that the Seven were literally real and had one parent who believed in them and one who didn't).
      • May it be the case that men like Jorah Mormont or Rodrik Cassel were knighted for their service in either Robert's Rebellion or the Greyjoy Rebellion (this is explicit in Jorah's case), and might not have ever been if they only saw service in the North. After all, one can't imagine Robert cares too much about the religious end of knighthoods, and such men would accept the honour if proposed even if they don't follow the Seven.
      • They may also have been fostered in the south as children. They could have either picked up the Faith or squired for a knight and been rewarded with knighthood. Also, being a quasi-religious position and an actual title of nobility has constantly blurred the lines. Walder Frey had Olyvar Frey squire for Robb with the expectation that he would be knighted so apparently the issue of religion doesn't crop up too often.
    • There's also the fact that none of knights in Stannis's service, including the Queen's Men, who are apparently devout followers of R'hllor (Axell Florent, in particular), seem to find it necessary to renounce their knighthoods. This is somewhat odd if knighthood is a quasi-religious office specific to the Seven.
      • It is possible that some of the individuals were (re)-knighted by Stannis himself, either before or after he "converted" to R'hllorism. For instance, iirc, there isn't an indication that Davos was anointed with the holy oils, just that Stannis knighted him and gave him a keep. For anyone knighted after Stannis's "conversion" (e.g. Clayton Suggs), it seems plausible that being dubbed by Lightbringer is the substitute for the traditional Seven-based knighting procedure.
    • There's also Ser Bartimus at White Harbour, a knight who explicitly keeps the old gods.

  • Minor one, but in A Dance with Dragons when Asha and her men are fighting the northerners after evacuating Deepwood Motte, mention is made that one of the northerners grabs her hair but can't get a good grip because it's too short. Later, when she is fighting the northerner champion, when he finally gets her his axe head crashes into her temple, and the narrations notes the sound of steel on steel. Did her helmet just appear out of nowhere, or am I missing something?
    • She probably grabbed one off a corpse during the battle, iirc in that scene she kinda zones out into full on combat mode and doesn't narrate a lot of the action in the middle of the fight.
    • I don't recall exactly how long her hair is, but it's also possible she was wearing a helmet the whole time, but it was a small enough helment that some of her hair hung below it (but not enough to grab onto). If her hair is particularly short, though, this wouldn't work.

  • After stopping Aerys from burning down King's Landing, Jaime kills the two remaining pyromancers deemed responsible for the plot, which included planting secret caches of wildfire at several locations in the city. Years later, large amounts of wildfire are discovered underneath the Great Sept of Baelor, something Hallyne tells Tyrion, which we can put together are presumably leftovers from this plot (though Hallyne presumably does not know this). I've always been a bit hazy as to why Jaime never seems to tell anyone about this plot, but perhaps he still feels compelled to do his duty and keep the king's secrets. Still, the fact that there are still hidden piles of wildfire at various spots of King's Landing, designed to burn down the city if ignited, makes me very happy that I do not live in King's Landing. Is the implication that Jaime just left them undisturbed? I guess so, unless I missed something, because removing them himself is not within his means. He is a brave man, walking the streets of the city fully aware that a couple of sparks could result in it burning down at any moment!
    • He may not have known where they were, and didn't know where to obtain a map of their locations. Though it's still weird that he never mentioned it to anyone.
    • Rereading the passage, it really seems that these wildfire caches are everywhere: "all over King's Landing. Beneath Baelor's Sept and the hovels of Flea Bottom, under stables and storehouses, at all seven gates, even in the cellars of the Red Keep itself." That makes it seems like 14 or 15 is a conservative estimate of how many there are, and only one is accounted for. The wonder may be that King's Landing 'hasn't' burned down (especially that none of these got sparked during the Battle of Blackwater)!
    • They might not actually be that volatile. Sure, the wildfire itself is, but if they are stored in secure, enclosed storage rooms, there is little danger of them being ignited by accident, even if a battle is going on above them. Or at least that's what Jaime might have thought. Consider this line of thinking: "I have killed the people who knew where the wildfire was. It is not within my means to remove it, because I don't know where it all is, and even if I did, I can't recover and dispose of it by myself. If I want to do that I have to tell other people that this city has a built-in self-destruct mechanism." And you know what, these other people might as well decide that this is actually a very good strategy. Jaime didn't have much trust for either Tywyn or Robert, so from his perspective, it's better to just keep quit about it and hope that the wildfire is secure enough.

  • Why do bastards of the Iron Islands get the surname 'Pyke', even if they aren't from Pyke, rather than 'Iron' or some other alternative closer to the other bastard surnames?
    • One of the many ways the Ironmen are culturally distinct from the rest of Westeros.
  • After reading about how Dayenerys ransacked the slaver city in "Storm of swords", I have to ask, did the slavers honestly not see that coming or think of any safeguards? If I had just spent my entire fortune, including a potentially formidable monster, but managed to buy myself an entirety of city's militia to do my every bidding, I would've probably done the same thing, even if the residents weren't such horrible people. Because an army and enough money to buy an army is better than just an army and besides, I wouldn't want the slavers to sell the next army to my enemies, would I? If the slavers so rigourously conditioned the slaves, wouldn't the very first thing they'd whip into their bio-robots be "Never, ever, under any circumstances, attack us"?
    • I just took it that these slavers/merchants were just so utterly complacent that they never expected something like this to happen. Spend a lifetime or so with slaves and servants obeying your every whim, it makes being betrayed (especially so suddenly...) a shock. Also remember that they fully expected Drogon to simply allow them to control him, despite the fact that it is a quasi-intelligent animal that lived its whole life with its mother, and was suddenly being taken by strange men. As for the "Train them to not attack us" thing, their number one and ONLY priority was Obedience. Obey your Masters, no matter the cost. You put in one exception, it may end up compromising the whole thing. "If we shouldn't attack them, even after we get new masters, why should we attack our mothers? Our kin? Our dogs? Other men? Anything at all?" Exceptions have a tendency to breed further exceptions, and may have compromised the Unsullied entirely. They already had to cut out any that showed any weakness as it was, which was presumably many.
    • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. The Good Masters apparently believed that their customer's desire for repeat business combined with them being the only shop in town to buy Unsullied gave them Ultimate Job Protection. They were notably hesitant to sell all of their Unsullied to Dany on general principle; presumably, if it weren't for the fact she was paying in dragon, they would have refused and only sold her a few thousand.
      • Remember, they were telling Dany that any slaves she takes could be sold to them so they can make more Unsullied for her to buy. They didn't even consider that she was displeased by the whole "buying and selling people" business.
    • Consider that they were the only people who could (and did) produce Unsullied. They didn't discriminate between their customers, they sold to everybody. And everybody wants to make sure they can maintain the source of their Unsullied. Of course everybody would theoretically like to seize the whole operation. But if they do that, they open themselves up to war from all the other customers, starting a war while cutting off their source of Unsullied at the same time. Furthermore, under ordinary circumstances the slavers would have a large army of Unsullied to protect them. In the real world, this is more or less why Switzerland has been able to maintain its famed neutrality, only with less torture.
  • How the hell did Ramsay know that Roose Bolton was his father? I read on the wiki that Roose had given Ramsay's mother a farm in exchange for keeping Ramsay's paternity a secret, then Reek was sent, also told not to tell him. So, how did he figure it out?
    • You didn't read the book? Roose's trueborn son found out he had a bastard brother somewhere, got it into his head that he should be close to his brother against his father's advice, went to look for him, found him, and for some reason (wink, wink) died of a bellyache some time later.
    • Even before that it was pretty clear that Ramsay's mother and Reek did in fact tell him who his father was, and it was his mother who got into his head that he should be his father's heir.
    • And why exactly is Roose content to have Ramsay as his heir? He's pretty convinced that he had his legitimate heir killed and knows Ramsay is spying on him, so why does he allow him to live? He doesn't exactly seem like the type to be overly bothered by due process so give him a show trial (if that) and have the guy executed. Somebody who's already committed one murder to get him closer to a Lordship doesn't seem like the sort of person you want as your heir!
      • Roose is quite cheerfully sociopathic, so he doesn't mind Ramsay's... foibles that much. Not that he was particularly inclined to keep him around, really. Circumstances simply arranged themselves so that Ramsay become a legitimate candidate. He was perfectly willing to let the Starks have his head when he became inconvenient.
      • Being sociopathic is one thing: having a bastard who's already performed one assassination to get to the top is another when you're the next one up. And until Ramsay is removed (hell, try him for murdering Roose's legitimate heir, he may even have done that!) he can't produce another heir (Ramsay would just off him too). So why hasn't Roose got rid of him already - Joker Immunity only stretches so far!
      • And let's not forget that Roose freely admits (to Theon — so I wouldn't rule out a certain calculated strategy involved) that Ramsay would likely murder any rival child Roose conceives. Possibly Roose's emotionless, leeched-out psyche is prepared to just passively accepted this — or perhaps he has a plan to deal with Ramsay down the line. It's not like the book is ignoring any of these things. It's just that Roose's motivations are not clear yet. No doubt, light will be shed on them in the future.
      • The implication does appear to be that Roose just doesn't care about anything that happens after he dies. Any heir he could replace Ramsay with would not come of age early enough for him to see it and be interested by it.
      • IIRC, Roose told Theon he didn't want to do away with Ramsay and replace him with another heir, as he'd die before the kid came of age and "boy lords are the bane of any house". Given that he'd just watched Robb botch the Stark line and heard enough stories about Joffery putting House Baratheon down the crapper, it's hard to disagree.
  • I have been wondering about this for a while,but just what the hell is wrong with Cersei? In a Go T she was cruel, malicious and overall a Grade-A bitch,but she seemed to be pretty intelligent and competent. Yet by the time of AFFC & ADWD she is making decisions that even a complete novice in politics would hesitate to make,and is so obsessed with Margaery that she can't think about her without feeling that the girl needs to be attended to by a headsman. Doesn't she realize that the moment Margaery dies,she and her offsprings(and likely the whole of House Lannister) is doomed?(Because from what we have seen of Mace Tyrell,I don't think he is one to accept the execution of his daughter quietly,and House Lannister is definitely not strong enough to take on the Reach and win right now).Then we find out that she was planning to have Doran Martell's son killed,which would have dashed all hopes of a Dornish alliance to bits. I realize that Joffrey's and Tywin's deaths made her paranoid,and also that she wants to hog all the power,but these moves seem to be bordering on outright lunacy.
    • Cersei is becoming more unhinged as the series progresses. In the first book, she's just trying to keep her secret under wraps whilst balancing a vitriolic marriage. When she makes herself Queen Regent, she starts drinking more heavily and becomes much more defensive of her family and her personal power. And as her enemies increase, so does her paranoia. As her perceived victories increase, so does her confidence. Essentially, it boils down to the fact that she's not nearly as savvy as she thinks. Her power and the scope of her plots, as well as her confidence, increase at the same rate that her paranoia and dependency on alcohol do without a matching increase in ability. Imagine if King Robert hadn't allowed his more competent advisers rule the kingdom.
    • It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you. Cersei is, in fact, beset on all sides by enemies and is overreacting to the stress of it.
      • Mightn't one say that when you're surrounded by enemies is precisely the time not to becoming paranoid, lest you lose the discernment to tell friend from foe? It's more a case of, to quote Golda Meir, that "Paranoids have real enemies." Cersei's paranoia has done her no favours — take, for instance, for ordering the assassination of the previous High Septon, somebody who meant little real threat to her, which not only opened for her to be justly prosecuted for the crime but led to his office being filled by somebody far more ambitious and (to Cersei) politically dangerous.
      • Yes? Just in the short time before her POV chapters start, her oldest son is murdered, her brother is convicted for it, he escapes with the help of her other brother and kills her father on the way out. She doesn't have many friends left, if any at all. Being under that kind of constant stress is cracking her up.
    • Let's not forget that Cersei makes one enormous mistake in the first novel: not being able to predict or control Joffrey. The veneer of her competence unravelled the instant of Ned Stark's execution, and one way or another, she has been paying for it ever since.
    • To build on this point, it's worth noticing that Cersei's reaction to Joff's death is to completely overcompensate in the other direction with Tommen. She couldn't control Joffrey, so she tried to clutch Tommen's authority as close as possible, which is when things started slipping through her hands.
    • Then again, she has had a bit of luck so far. The plan that she concocted to kill King Robert had a tremendous risk if Robert had survived the hunt because it had a factor that she couldn't rely on, which was the boar itself. In the end, it played out in her favor, but no thanks to her intervention. The ways it could've gone awry for her are too many to consider. This is a plan that she entirely relied on, and it could have meant her head and her children's mounted on spikes. Consider that the next thing she comes up with, the plot against the son of Doran Martell, was as thinly veiled and flimsy as the first plan and fortunately for her, it did not carry major consequences. She has been so far really lucky-stupid.
    • It might be a matter of perspective. Cersei is considered at her most dangerous in the first book when she is seen through the eyes of Eddard, who wouldn't know a plot if it danced in front of him. *coughLittlefingercough* Then we see her from Tyrion's perspective and see she's not that intelligent. By aFfC, we're inside her head and can see her poor logic and decsion making skills first hand.
  • Currently reading the first book, and am a little confused by the first chapter, in which a Night Watchman who was patrolling north of the Wall deserts and is captured south of the Wall. Which crosses the entire continent and is 700 feet high. How did he get past the Wall in order to be taken by Stark's men? And if there's a way around the Wall, or a way over or through it that won't be spotted by the thousands of men constantly patrolling the Wall, why aren't the Wildings using it to raid south into Stark territory?
    • They are, in fact. Like the ones that attack Bran, Robb and Theon in the woods.
      • Yes, I just got to that part. But then... what's the point of the Wall? I thought it was at least partly to keep the Wildings out, at least now that the White Walkers are considered mythical. Or is it just a sign of how far the Watch has fallen, that they can't stop people from getting around it? The Wall itself is noted to be so thick that multiple gates have to be unlocked to go through, which means they're going around... hm, for that matter, do Wildlings have access to ships? And if not, does that mean the Wall doesn't really cross the whole continent?
      • "Or is it just a sign of how far the Watch has fallen, that they can't stop people from getting around it?" Indeed it is. The Watch is in a trully woeful state, undermanned and spread thin. Most of the guard keeps along the wall are abandoned and fallen into disrepair. Wildlings are either climbing over (dangerous, but possible) or using passages in those abandoned keeps.
      • It's definitely a sign of the Watch getting weaker. Out of 19 castles on the Wall, only 3 are manned.
    • Though impressive, The Wall has one logical weakness; the sea. There's mention of increased numbers of Wildlings slipping past the Shadow Tower, which guards the western edge of The Wall near the sea. Add that to the fact that some Wildlings scale the wall in the third book and the fact that it's possible he deserted after coming back through the Wall and there are plenty of ways for him to get past.
    • Another point from later books, about the purpose of the Wall: a 700-foot-high, 100-league-long wall is not what you build when you want to keep out a few tribes of raiders.

  • Why aren't there more Starks and Baratheons? The starks do have a few charter houses(like the Karstarks), and the Baratheons are the youngest great house in Westeros, but still, with the dozens of Lannisters running around, you'd think we'd hear about more Stark and Baratheon cousins. Yet these two houses seem to have been wittled down to one family each.
    • Well, the Starks are known to have almost gone extinct as a family name on the century before the start of the series, when the only living Starks were women. One could assume one of these Stark women had her husband take her surname (instead of the other way around, as is usual) in order to continue the legacy, while the others didn't, so the family was extremely reduced in numbers, and is just now recovering (or would be, if this wasn't A Song of Ice and Fire, where major characters die like flies). As of now, the family may be heading to a similar bottleneck, with Robb dead and Bran probably incapable of reproduction. Only Rickon, Jon (if he's alive and gets legitimised) and the females are left.
    • There would be more Starks and Baratheons, but recent events (and their respective locations) make it difficult to amass large families for these houses. The North is a harsh and unforgiving place in the best of times and being on the frontline of any major Wildling invasion does wonders for cutting down the average Stark lifespan. There's also the fact that Ned's brother Brandon, his father and perhaps even a few distant Stark relations were slaughtered by the Mad King and Benjen took the black, leaving Ned to maintain the Stark legacy (and for his part, he did have six kids. Fate just conspired against him). The Baratheons live in the Stormlands, so named for the frequent and terrible storms that rage along the coast. As you say, they are the youngest great house, and the parents of the Baratheon brothers were killed in a shipwreck, eliminating any chance of more sons or a daughter. It's possible that both of these houses do have cousins and other distant familial relations; the simply do not have the Stark or Baratheon surname (at one point it is mentioned that the Starks have relations to some nobility in the Vale).
    • Mass extinguishing of houses is not unheard of; consider that Balon Greyjoy himself lost five brothers (Harlon, Quenton, Donel, Urrigon and Robin) and two sons (Rodrik and Maron). His surviving brothers themselves have not had any issue to add to the family nor are in route to do so anytime soon (though them being who they are and considering the Iron Law, they must have had numerous salt wives and bastard kids by the truckload); Theon is most certainly castrated and Asha is not on the track of maternity, so one can say that the line is close to being extinguished if someone doesn't do something soon.

  • When Arya named Jaqen H'ghar as her final victim to blackmail him, why didn't Jaqen simply change his identity? He even uses the phrase "Jaqen is dead" when he switches to a new 'face' later on. It would have been an amusing loophole out of his own suicide.
    • Because that wouldn't have satisfied the Red God. Jaqen promised three deaths.
    • He did change his identity to avoid taking his own life. The whole point of the change of identity was that he had promised Arya he'd kill three people she named, and she couldn't just "un-name" him, even after he helped in killing all those other people. He probably only went on with the plan Arya gave him instead of doing the identity switcheroo imediately because he liked her way of out-of-the-box thinking, and that served as a "reward" of sorts.
      • Doubtful, Arya says that he looked more scared of her naming him than he did while chained up in a burning building. The phrase "Jaqen is dead" is a reference to the way the Faceless Men change identities, which involves using the faces of dead people.
    • The name isn't really the important detail here; in the TV series at least he only needs a nickname to kill someone. When she gives him his own name, it wouldn't matter if he changed it or not, he knows full well who she wants him to kill and his own honour can't allow him to try an weasel out of it. He might avoid the letter of the request, but he's breaking the spirit of it and that wouldn't fly with the Faceless Men.

  • Why does everyone say that this series has so many shocking deaths? I mean, I was expecting main characters killed off regularly for the sake of shocking realism, and instead I get a classical tragedy. Everyone who's died has been either a minor character, an old mentor-type or died as a direct karmic result of their own actions, or more than one of the above. Is there anyone in the series who doesn't meet those criteria?
    • People are very, very used to the "heroes" of fantasy miraculously escaping the results of their actions. They aren't really prepared for a book where, when in a situation where death is inevitable, death actually happens. Once you get used to the idea, very few of the deaths are all that shocking, just tragic because you can see where things went off the rails.
      • Except that that isn't really what happens. Every time, say, Danaerys or Arya or Jon ends up in a situation where they need to Kick the Dog or are probably doomed, they survive because they're heroic - and in a book spoiler, The one time something terrible happens to Jon, it's because he broke a sworn oath. Further, Ned and Robb both died because of dishonorable acts violating their personal codes of morality which immediately lead to their horrible fates.
    • I guess that depends on your definition of "shocking." Not only did the show kill off the man who appeared to be its central heroic characternote , its been doing the same to nearly every character who appeared to be taking his place. And beyond that, it's not just who dies, but how. We've seen: Children being drowned, children being burned, babies being killed in front of their mothers, babies being killed inside their mother, women raped and then hung to rot, and a woman being tied up and riddled with arrows for the creepy King's sexual pleasure. That's far beyond most TV shows, even HBO.
      • That is, you have the horrible deaths of lots and lots of minor characters, but that that was the sort of thing that would happen was established in the first episode, with Bran. It only goes beyond the Modern Historically-Inspired Fantasy that's been common for the last 25 years by the fact that, being a TV show, we see it instead of having it described. What we don't have are the Shocking Twist Deaths of major characters.
      • Viserys, Robert, Eddard, Khal Drogo, Renly, Balon, Robb, Joffery, Tywin, and possibly Jon and Stannis have all died. Each one of them could have been the Big Bad/ The Hero or the Big Good. The 'shocking' deaths come from the fact that Martin has no qualms about changing who the main players of the story are and replacing them with the tertiary characters.

  • Why is Jon's name even Jon? Assuming he was named by Ned, then surely he was named after Jon Arryn. And while it is nice and all to name your son after your quasi-stepfather, isn't it also a bit demeaning by Westerosi standards? He is introduced to the world as Ned's bastard (truly or not), so he does not stand to inherit anything and can pass no titles to his children. In terms of patriarchal nobility he is at best non-existent and at worst a blemish. So, you'd think that this is the one child you should not name after someone you want to honor.
    • Presumably he named the boy after Jon Arryn, but Jon is not an uncommon name in the North anyways. Ned loves his son, bastard or no, and probably wouldn't see a problem with it. In fact, just because he's a politically non-existant entity doesn't mean it isn't flattering for someone to name a human being after you. For all we know, Jon Arryn was delighted to hear it.
    • And obviously, the R+L=J theory leaves open the possibility he's named for Jon Connington.
      • Not really. GRR Martin stated in a Q&A that Jon was named by Ned, who has no reason to name him after Jon Connington. Lyanna wouldn't have much reason to either.

  • How does the dove pie work? The pie was seemingly intact, how did they add the doves in after it was baked? What are the chances that doves would go number 2 inside the pie? Who in the world would want pie of birds that may have crapped in it?
    • The pie is all crust. It's shaped into a bowl and baked. Then the doves are placed on the plate and covered by the crust, maybe some decorations are added to conceal the seam and to keep the crust in place. That's it. You wrongly assume that this is a pie people are supposed to eat. It isn't. It's just done for spectacle. Surely the inside of that crust is full of bird shit and maybe one or two dead doves, but it doesn't matter, because once it's cut open everything is just thrown away. There IS something called a "pidgeon pie" served at the wedding, but it's clearly stated to be a wholly different dish, one with cooked pidgeon meat.

  • If Ned Stark found out quick enough that Jorah Mormont was trying to get his hands dirty by engaging in the slave trade, and that Mance Rayder was amassing a great army to storm the wall, how come he never found out that Ramsay Snow had killed Domeric Bolton, the heir to the Dreadfort even by rumor? Isn't that newsworthy enough to warrant a reaction from Winterfell? It's true that the Boltons have no lost love for the Starks, but the Bastard of Bolton already had amassed a dire reputation even before Ned Stark had left Winterfell to become the Hand of the King, and it's noteworthy enough that the Bastard is known to engage in human hunting (an even worse practice than what Jorah Mormont was forced to exile himself for).
    • Now, it's known that Lady Dustin (Domeric's aunt and Lord Bolton's sister-in-law) hated Ned Stark; but isn't the death of her "beloved" nephew and the resulting death of her sister Bethany (Domeric's mother and Lord Bolton's wife) after two years of grief warranted enough scorn to denounce the Bastard to the Starks of Winterfell?
    • First of all, don't overestimate Ned's capacity for information gathering. He apparently completely lacked spies or informants. It might have been bad luck on Jorah's part that his slave trading was even discovered. Maybe he was secretly denounced by a family member or another noble house, and there was some written document that clearly proved his wrongdoings, so Ned could easily charge him without much investigation. That he knows about Mance Rayder is because the Watch knows knows about him, and obviously they would relay such information to the Lord of Winterfell. With Domeric's death things are a lot more muddy and complex. He died of an illness after visiting Ramsey, and even though Roose (and the reader) is convinced that it was his doing, there is hardly any way to prove it (beyond just torturing a confession out of Ramsey, and Ned wouldn't do that). Furthermore, Ned might feel much less compelled to act even if he did believe in Ramsey's guilt. Roose didn't act at all, and it was his only son and heir. Is Ned really going to pry into a death which might not be a homicide at all, can't be proven a murder even if it was, and all that against the wishes of one of his most important bannerman, who is also the victim's father? As for that Ramsey was hunting humans - those are rumors as well. Ned probably hears rumors about one or the other noble in the north all the time, especially those of houses with a history of cruelties, he can't just cause a diplomatic incident based on gossip. Keep in mind that back then Ramsey was probably a bit more careful going about his "hobby".
    • Ned was only coming to Bear Island because there were rumours of slaving, a serious enough crime in Westeros to warrant a high lord's investigation. Slaving is hard to keep secret, especially on an island with few people. He may not have known that Jorah was involved, but Jorah automatically assumed that he did (as the guilty often do) and made a break for it with his wife. Considering he was the lord of Bear Island, it wouldn't have been easy for him to get away if everyone knew he was suspected of a serious crime, particularly when surrounded by an honourable family like the Mormonts.

  • That's a question that not many people have done, but what happened to Tyrek Lannister? He was a boy of 13 son of Tygett Lannister, the one who his nicknamed "wet nurse" because he's married with a baby. He disappeared after the riot at King's Landing in A Clas Of Kings and his body was never found. Well, in A Feast for Crows Jaime suggested that Varys kidnapped him and that's a very likely solution. But why he did so? Varys is plotting to put Young Griff on the throne, right? Then I remembered he's the one who always cared for Gendry's wellfare. Gendry may be an Unexpected Successor of House Baratheon. And what if he kidnapped Tyrek for hiding an Unexpected Successor for House Lannister. See it: If Varys and Illyrio win the game, Cersei is going to die, Tywin is already dead, Jaime is a King's Guard and could die as well, they have Kevan killed, I'm sure they expected to have Tyrion killed with Cersei and Jaime, Lancel joined the Faith and the other son of Kevan is dead as well. There will be only Martyn Lannister, who could die as well, and...Tyrek Lannister. Are there others options?
    • Tywin Lannister would rise from the grave himself if any of the sons of Genna gets to be the successor, considering they're all Freys; they would certainly not have a better claim than Tyrek, so there's that. Now seriously, it's certainly interesting that Varys would worry about the fate of House Lannister when basically everything that he is fighting for is to undermine them and their reign, even saying so to Kevan before crossbowing him to the gut. The mere use of the crossbow is meant to recall what Tyrion did to Tywin himself, so that Tyrion gets the blame for Kevan as well. These actions from Varys do not suggest any direction that would benefit the Lannisters at all.
      • Varys is only worring about Targaryens 's fate, for obsure reasons. I think he's preserving Robert's bastard and young Tyrek only for a reason that would benefit Aegon, though currently we don't know how.
      • Possibly he intends to put Tyrek or a Tyrek impostor in charge of House Lannister to make them loyal to Aegon and kidnapped/killed Tyrek and hid the body for that end. If Stannis and Shireen died, then Gendry would have one of the best claims to House Baratheon and could possibly be used as a vassal for Aegon and Tyrek could be used as a similar puppet for House Lannister.

  • Now, following the line of questions that not many people have asked, I ask this: During the failed plot that was concocted by Arianne Martell to crown Myrcella Baratheon, why did Gerold Dayne (Darkstar) try to kill the Baratheon Princess and on who's behalf?
    • His own. Darkstar wants war between Dorne and the Iron Throne. When Hotah stopped the silly attempt to crown Myrcella, Darkstar went for plan B and tried to kill her.

  • Why is Lady Stoneheart fighting with the Brotherhood and why didn't she try to find Arya? Gendry was with them and knew Arya's true identity, and all of the Brotherhood probably knew that the Hound had carried her off. I understand that they resurrected her, but why is she not upset at them for losing her daughter?
    • It's good to point out that Lady Stoneheart is not at her right senses when she takes over the Brotherhood. Consider that Beric Dondarrion argued that he lost great bits of himself every time he died; granted, he did not stay dead for a long time every time thanks to Thoros' presence. Catelyn stayed an awful lot more time dead than Beric so it's safe to assume that she lost greater parts of herself compared to Dondarrion. Considering how much of a threat is Stoneheart, being faithful men that know that R'hllor brought her back to life for some damn good reason (good enough to kill Dondarrion for good), I gather that they are following her out of fear or out of mere faith to the Lord of Light. Seeing that they are apparently following her diligently, they either didn't tell her to protect themselves or to protect Arya from her. Then again, if they did tell her, she might be bound exclusively for revenge and this matters to her more than the subject of Arya (specially since they have no damn idea of where the hell the girl is anyway).
      • Also, if they did tell her, she might be manipulating them out of the guilt they carry for losing Arya.
    • They probably emphasized that they had been going to bring Arya to her and the Hound stole her. Why do you say she didn't try to find her? Right before they hang Merrett Frey, they ask him if he's seen the Hound and Arya or knows where they'd have gone.
      • Also they're collecting kids at the orphanage run by Gendry. That's certainly an attempt to find Arya.

  • Uhm... I've recently reread the series, and, unless I'm mistaken, Jaqen H'ghar was introduced along with Biter and Rorge, being taken by Yoren from the cells in the Red Keep, so... How did H'ghar, a Faceless Man, manage to get captured? Early-Installment Weirdness?
    • Some fans have speculated that Syrio=Jaqen. Even if that isn't true it's probably safe to say that he was captured for trying kill someone.
      • It's safe to consider that if Syrio=Jaqen like it's speculated, he may have tailed Arya to make sure that she finished her training properly by guiding her to Braavos or at the very least turn her away from the dangers of Westeros.
    • What you consider being captured, the Faceless Men call "hitching a ride".
    • Either (a) he took on the identity of a criminal for a reason, or (b) he's not infallible.

  • There has been long talk about the identity of Coldhands, and it's greatly speculated that he might be an undead Benjen Stark. This is a very good theory, except from the fact that the Children of the Forest refer to his state as being dead a long time ago. Considering that they can live for hundreds of years, the two years that Benjen has been missing/dead would not be a long time for a Child of the Forest. As such, who is a suitable candidate for the identity of Coldhands? My money is on someone from between the days of Aegon the Conqueror (age 1) and the Dunk and Egg stories (80-something years before ASOIAF).
    • Some think he's The Night's King.
    • Leaf could have been using terms her audience would get, rather than her own radically different sense of time.

  • Why did Benjen Stark take the Black? Considering that the rest of the Great Houses are suitably represented with numerous members, the fact that his father, elder brother and sister were killed in the fight against the Targaryens and the focus of House Stark during the Dunk and Egg stories (some 80 years before AGOT) is to rebuild the male line of the house (and presumably has remained very sparse ever since), why wasn't a priority for Benjen to have a family? Eddard participated in two great wars that could have put his issue at a tremendous risk, but Benjen was never considered even as a contingency? It's not like Benjen didn't like booty, seeing that he warned Jon against taking the Black if he knew just what he would be giving up!
    • Without bothering to look the dates properly, I always assumed Benjen had joined the Nights Watch before his father and brother died. I don't remember him having a role in Robert's Rebellion and being in the NW would explain that as well.
      • Benjen attended the tourney at Harrenhall and it's speculated that he and his brothers and sister were behind the enigmatic Knight of the Laughing Tree, who participated in the tourney. He was the standing Stark who remained at Winterfell during the War of the Usurper and joined the Night's Watch immediately after the war.
      • Tradition. The Stark House has always been the support of the Night's Watch, and they still believe in its mission to protect the North, enough to keep sending some of their family there to keep it going.
      • It seems to be the Westeros equivalent of taking Holy Orders, which was a common way of disposing of surplus sons in Medieval times (he did, initially at least, have two older brothers).
      • In addition to having them actually take Holy Orders as septons, or become maesters.
  • How does the Iron Islands economy work? It is shameful for men to pay for anything. How do they buy food? How do they have ships built? How do they get their arms and armor? Raiding had ceased for three centuries by the events of the books. You might say "Thralls" but A: It had been 300 years since they stopped raiding places, B: Thralls need food and accommodation as well, which needs to be bought and C: this still does not negate the fact that they would still need to trade for resources. The only way I could see this whole gold price/iron price thing working the case is that that the Iron Price thing is really something for the nobles and even then, it is usually taken as no more than a suggestion.
    • In the first place, I get the impression that, as you said, it's an elite thing. In their heyday, I suspect the "ironborn" were more of a noble caste than an entire society. Food and mining were the exclusive province of slaves and thralls, with perhaps a certain degree of tribute from mainland communities. Also, it's probably a lot more acceptable to pay with gold if you got the gold by looting in the first place.
    • Also, it's kind of a symbolic thing. It's less that it's shameful for men to pay for anything then that it's shameful for men to pay for everything.
      • You could always assume that women run the entire economy.
    • How do they get their arms and armour? It's the IRON Islands, they have plenty of iron mines.
      • That does not mean they don't need miners to work the mine, smiths to work the metal, masons and bricklayers to build the smith's forges and coal to fire them. All of which requires, one way or another, money to process a lump of ore into a sword or helmet.
    • Back in the olden days, the answer would likely be "thralls who use money that was taken raiding." As time marched on, the Iron Price moved to only cover more expensive things. Balon doesn't bitch Theon out over his pants, just his golden, ornamented cloak clasp.
  • What did Littlefinger have against the Lannisters? It seems to me that he aimed to hurt them just as much as he did with the Starks and Tullys, even considering that they were just mere accessories to his plans to exploit. Was it because of his witnessing of their treatment of Sansa?
    • Littlefinger hurts everyone. And let's be honest here; Cersei shot herself in the foot without any input from Littlefinger.
      • Littlefinger even tells Sansa he had been banking on a little more time to get his pieces in place before Cersei shot everything to hell in King's Landing.
    • Because he profited from it.
      • Exactly. One shouldn't make the mistake of assuming Littlefinger needs to hold a grudge against someone in order to conspire in destroying them. The Lannisters offer him one of the best motivations of all; they're the ruling power, which means they're in his way. The weaker and more divided they are, the more likely it is Littlefinger's later plans to advance his own power will succeed.
  • Why didn't King Robert have a more vigilant approach to the Iron Islands or Dorne? It looks like he just left Balon to his schemes after his rebellion (he even reached the point where he just didn't care about Theon anymore) and he left the Martells largely alone in spite of them being noted Targaryen loyalists.
    • It's easy to forget that the Seven Kingdoms are roughly the size of South America. Simple geographic considerations make securing them completely, utterly impractical. The Targaryen conquest was only possible with their dragons, and their rule only continued after the last dragon died because of simple political inertia, aided by the fact that the overlords of the Seven Kingdoms remained kings of their realms de facto if not de jure. (Alexander used a similar system of governance, as did the Persian Empire.) Robert's Rebellion was simply the Targaryen rulers overstepping their somewhat tenuous authority and calling down the might of four kings down on their dragon-less heads.
      • Robert and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms don't really understand the ironborn philosophy. To him, there is no sense to Balon continuing his rebellion; it made sense to him initially, since he was a rebel himself, but afterwards... what would have been the point? The might of the throne can easily crush any possible ironborn rebellion if not distracted by other matters.
      • Rooting out the Martells would have been impossible. Dorne could not have taken on the might of five Great Houses, but contrariwise, the Baratheon alliance had no chance of just destroying them with fire and sword on their own ground. There's a reason Dorne is the only one of the Seven Kingdoms which had to be brought under the hegemony via marriage. The Baratheon court weren't stupid about it; there's a reason Robert never travelled to Dorne to engage in his skillful diplomatic method of drinking with his enemy until they were too hungover to object to the peace. But Jon Arryn's collaboration with Doran Martell convinced the court that a rather tenuous peace had been established, and Doran and Oberyn's combined efforts kept them believing it.
    • (1) From Robert's (or Jon Arryn's) perspective, pretty much everyone will be disloyal given motive and opportunity. For example, if Robert had Balon or Doron killed, any replacement strong enough to lead the Ironborn or the Dornish would be just as bad, and would have an additional grievance as well. (2) As Robert knows well, excessive cruelty will give all the other houses motive to rise against you. Or, as Tywin explained: "When your enemies defy you, you must serve them steel and fire. When they go to their knees, however, you must help them back to their feet. Elsewise no man will ever bend the knee to you."
  • In Storm of Swords, Dany gives surrender terms to Yunkai: release your slaves, all of them. Give them a big armful of food, gold, etc. for their years of service. Allow Dany's Unsullied into the city to search and make sure these terms are met. Do this, and she'll leave Yunkai alone. She's rejected, but afterwards wins a decisive battle that would leave her no reason to compromise on her demands, and we see the slaves leaving Yunkai. Fast forward to Dance with Dragons...and the Yunkai we see go to war with Dany has lots and lots of slaves, enough so that every petty Yunkish lord has specialty slaves of all descriptions, such as enormously tall slave warriors on stilts and other such absurdities. I can understand that Yunkai would go back to slaving the moment Dany left, but one gets the impression from descriptions and dialogue that these aren't fresh catches, but rather slaves the Yunkish have had for years. And Yunkai seems to have them in abundance. Where the hell did they come from? Why isn't Yunkai hurting from having the entire foundation of their economy liberated and marched off?
    • Two reasons: first, that once Dany and her army had gone there was absolutely nothing to stop them from taking their old slaves back. Second: life is very difficult for someone who has never had to support themselves, particularly in an economy that's gone to crap. It's mentioned that basically as soon as Dany left millions of people sold themselves back into slavery because once the bag of money was gone they realised they had no experience, skills, or prospects. As for the repercussions for Yunkai's occuption: they're having plenty. Their economy is trash. They get a new king every week. The citizens are starving and anarchic. They're terrified of Dany returning, so they're conscripting their people and marching on her as fast as they can. The only people we see with slaves are the materially wealthy.

  • What were Robert's relations with Tyrion like? I've only seen the show but don't mind spoilers from the books.
    • They didn't have much interaction, as it's implied Tyrion spent most of his days in Casterly Rock before the events of the books. However, Tyrion does say that he liked Robert, because Cersei hated him. Considering, however, Robert's lack of respect for anyone who isn't capable of smashing a hammer, he probably disdained Tyrion like most people do. Certainly he wasn't on Tyrion's list of "people that are kind to me." (Jaime, Jaime, Aemon, and Jaime.)
    • Tyrion reflects on Robert when Mormont asks him to get more men for the Watch, and notes that Robert would just ignore him. This suggests they weren't very close, Robert didn't have a high opinion of him, or both.

  • This a very minor point, but why does Tyrion's scheme to have Myrcella betrothed to Trystane Matrell when Doran Martell has an older son, Quentyn, who (as far as Tyrion knows) is as yet unbethrothed? True, Trystane and Quentyn are better matched in terms of age but that seems to matter little in Westeros, and isn't one step higher in the succession so much better?
    • Remember that Tyrion loves his little niece dearly, and it's entirely within his character to try and partner Myrcella with a boy her own age. It's also safer for Myrcella if she and her betrothed sexually mature together and become friends, rather than hand her off to someone who's almost a man and might treat her badly. Alternatively, he might have thought that because Quentyn is being groomed to become the ruler of Dorne, Doran would want him married to someone within Dorne.
    • Furthermore, by making the betrothed with Trystane, Myrcella would not be particularly close to a position of power (seeing that Trystane is behind Arianne and Quentyn in the Dornish succession), thus putting her away from harm's way.

  • Another minor point: why is it that only three of the Kingsguard (Jaime, Meryn Trant and Boros Blount) accompany the entire royal family to Winterfell? Certainly some of them, Selmy included, have duties that would keep them in King's Landing, but why aren't at least the majority of them along for the trip? Perhaps a feature of Robert's bravado?
    • Sometimes kings will have members of their family protected by the Kingsguard, and we saw Selmy with Renly, so presumanbly Robert followed that tradition and had the other guards protecting other members.
    • Selmy's internal monologue in aDoD indicates that the Kingsguard's role has varied over the years. Some kings exclusively used them to protect their own person, some had them guard the entire royal family, and some used them as elite warriors and dependable commanders who would be dispatched throughout the kingdoms. In short, they're not just bodyguards, bodyguarding is just what they usually do.

  • Why is Lord Caron apart of Renly's Kingsguard? Aren't members of the Kingsguard supposed to renounce titles? Did he and everyone just refers to him as Lord out of habit? Or does Renly's Kingsguard have different rules?
    • Probably the latter. Renly doesn't strike me as the kind of guy to follow tradition in anything, and it would be smart to keep one of his biggest supporters fairly close to him at all times.

  • Why exactly are the Lannisters so willing to marry Joffrey to Margaery? Not only is she a widow (meaning as far as they know, she's not a virgin) but she was married to Renly Baratheon, widely considered a traitor to the Realm. Neither of these things exactly make her sound like Queen material. I get that they were trying to secure the Tyrell's allegiance, but surely there were other, more suitable candidates for Joffrey to wed.
    • The Lannisters weren't exactly in the best negotiating position at the time. Left to fight without allies, Stannis and his newly reinforced army would likely have steamrolled them and they knew it. So they offered the Tyrells exactly what they were seeking in the first place; the marriage of Mace Tyrell's only daughter to the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Had they come to the Tyrells with a marriage proposal but a snotty attitude about Margaery being too soiled for Joffrey, it would have only ostracized them and driven them into the alliance with one of the Lannisters' enemies, resulting in the loss of everything. Moreover, while Renly may have been a 'traitor', he was a much beloved one and in any case no more a 'traitor' than the Tyrells themselves. In short, prior to the Battle of the Blackwater, the Lannisters were playing a rather weak hand as well they could.
    • The lesser reason would be to cut up Joffrey's betrothed to Sansa, as her status as a political prisoner was lessened by the presence of the Tyrells and later by the Stark's loss of the War of the Five Kings. As such, to the Lannister cause Sansa was a temporary convenience but Margaery and her family were an asset. As they reasoned, Sansa would not be less a prisoner even if the betrothed were broken.

  • After reading the first Hotah chapter of aFfC, the numbers presented don't seem to add up. Doran Martell is said to be "two-and-fifty" and "had ten years between" his brother Oberyn, who's oldest daughter is almost thirty. Doesn't that indicate that Oberyn sired her at age twelve? I know Dornish are supposed to be promiscuous but that seems... excessive.
    • Any more excessive than Dany getting pregnant at around the same age? Or to put it another way, if the Hound can take a life at age twelve, I don't see any reason why the Red Viper couldn't help create one.
    • Also, 'almost thirty' is not the same as 'thirty'.
    • If the daughter is 27, he would have sired her at age 15. If "ten years between" is loose, and Oberyn is only 9 or 8 years younger, he'd have been been 16 or 17. None of these ages are outrageous for Westeros.

  • What happens to the wife of a man sentenced to the Wall? Could she marry again, given that her husband is as good as dead for her, as a member of the Night's Watch?
    • It hasn't come up, so there's no canon answer to this yet, but I would think so, probably.
    • The Night's Watch creed explicitly forswears marriage, so it would seem like an annulment in that case.

  • What was the reason for Tywin's apparently extreme decay? Dead bodies abound in this Crapsack World, but they don't seem to rot so badly as to drive anyone within 50 feet into fits of projectile vomiting. Sepsis from his manner of death, maybe?
    • He's not just dead, he's literally dripping with shit from the giant hole in his bowels. The smell would be indescribable.
    • WMG says that he might have been poisoned by Oberyn Martell or Elaria Sand under the assumption made by the fact that Tywin was found in the privy by Tyrion under a rather improbable spell of dysentery, maybe. There is no indication that Tywin had any stomach problems at the moment of his death or that his being at the privy was the result of poisoning, but the amount of decay of his carcass and its rapid deterioration suggests that there might have been foul play aside from the crossbow bolts that Tyrion put on him. Admittedly, there is no foundation to this theory, since it's rather pointless that GRRM would include an insignificant detail that would prove quite inconsequential to an already dishonorable death like Tywin's was.

  • Why is the rules of the Seven Kingdoms called a king when he's clearly an emperor?
    • Possibly because the Lords Paramount of the Seven Kingdoms and the Riverlands, such as Hoster Tully and Eddard Stark, are not monarchs (having given up that title when Aegon conquered Westeros). Also, the ruler of Westeros does not directly rule over the Seven Kingdoms, instead simply having seniority over the lords who do. If they were styled as Kings and Queens, he then might be known as an Emperor to indicate his higher rank: since they are not, he is known as a King instead.

  • In AFFC, what did Varys want to prove when he faked being forced by Jaime to free Tyrion? In not so many words, Varys basically says to Tyrion "...oh, and there's the way to the tower of the hand... who knows what an uninvited onlooker might find there, hmmm???" and then Tyrion finds a conveniently reachable crossbow to finally shoot Tywin just as if someone had put it there for him. What possible benefit was there for Varys to deceive Jaime if Varys' plan was to rescue Tyrion and ultimately disappear? Was it because he was going to do it anyway but didn't want to leave witnesses?
    • Possibly. By pretending to be forced by Jaime, it would make Jaime think that Varys wouldn't have done it otherwise. It would make it look as though Varys was loyal to Tywin and as though the entire responsibility for what happened was Jaime's. If Jaime hadn't asked and Varys helped Tyrion anyway, he could have been a logical suspect due to his knowledge of the secret passages in the Red Keep but he could have pretended to be committed to investigating the murder. If Jaime asked and Varys agreed immediately, it would seem more than just a little suspicious and would give Varys no way of defending himself if Jaime accused him.

  • Wasn't Littlefinger's lie about the dagger incredibly risky? If anyone had ever shown the dagger to Robert, Littlefinger would have been totally exposed, but he lied to Catelyn and Ser Roderick, then put Ned in contact with Catelyn. Ned was walking around King's Landing with the dagger - if Ned had arrested Tyrion himself, the lie would have come out, or if Robert had ever said "hey, Ned, what's your wife's evidence for kidnapping my brother in law," the lie would have been exposed, and in both cases, the chief witness against Littlefinger would have been the actual King himself. Maybe Littlefinger was valuable enough to survive that, but it pretty much would have blown his cover at the least, and gotten his head put on a pike at the worst.
    • It was a calculated gamble and risk, the only way you can win is if you take a risk and Littlefinger knows that. The thing is the matter they are investigating is very delicate and any real accusation without evidence will lead to all-out war, so everyone Littlefinger tells that story of the dagger to is bound by secrecy anyway. It is actually a smart improvisation since Littlefinger is able to use that lame-ass attempted assassination(which we find out is by Joffrey, who else) to directly set the stage for the Stark-Lannister war he wanted. The only person who could potentially compromise Littlefinger is Tyrion Lannister who knows from where Catelyn made that accusation but again Tyrion is despised and ignored by his own family and far from King's Landing, by the time Tyrion arrives, Littlefinger is rewarded for betraying Ned Stark and above suspicion. And of course, Baelish got lucky when Catelyn met Tyrion at the Inn of the Crossroads. In A Clash of Kings, Tyrion decides that he'll move against Baelish later and decides to send him to treat with the Tyrells and get him out of the city. But Tyrion got Out-Gambitted when the Blackwater Battle left him injured, deposed from office and discredited instead of honored while Littlefinger became Lord of Harrenhal and then he leaves King's Landing while making sure that Tyrion gets his job as Master of Coin all the while setting him up to be framed for regicide. Basically, Littlefinger is a gambler and an expert puppet master who manages to get all ends covered while improvising and taking big risks when needed.
      • Imho, the big risk is ROBERT, who could easily recognize the dagger and blow the scheme up. On the other hand, Baelish is a gambler, so maybe that's how he works.
  • Just finished ADWD. Why is Jon seemingly the only one concerned with the potential ARMY OF ZOMBIES (the wildlings massing beyond the Wall by the coast), when wights have been proven to be able to enter Castle Black? Having him Surrounded by Idiots is a bit of a stretch now that everyone knows the wights are real and can enter the garrison. You'd think that the Watch would be welcoming any warm bodies to help man (or woman) the walls and doing all that they could to get the wildlings out of the reach of the Others. Or at the very least, not protesting so viciously about the wildlings being let through. Better smelly wildlings beside you than an army of the undead facing you. Is it just for the narrative to have Jon surrounded by unhelpful bigots and jerks, who ultimately decide stabbing him is a better plan than obeying his commands?
    • It's a combination of reasons.
      • Marsh's cabal hates the wildlings and think Jon is wrong to ally with them. Doubly so after the Shieldhall speech, when Jon announces that the already risky mission is going to be commanded by Tormund rather than Jon himself, meaning men of the Watch will be expected to serve under a wildling.
      • Then there's the logistical concerns. They've got to bring enough food for the ranging to Hardhome, and enough to feed the survivors there as well. The ranging will go right through the Haunted Forest and they'll be going even slower on the way back. It isn't hard to imagine why the conspirators would object to the notion of sending more men north either: If the ranging fails (a very real possibility) then they've done nothing but expend resources and give even more corpses to the Others.
      • Finally, Jon plans to go south and challenge Ramsay Bolton. At this point he believes that Stannis is dead, so even if he abandons his post and goes alone, he could still be inviting retaliation from Winterfell and he has no reason to believe that any more help is coming.
    • In addition to the excellent points made above, it's not that they're not concerned; in fact a lot of the men on the Wall have had more experience with the Others than Jon has, and they're terrified out of their wits. It's that Jon is making decisions that, to them, make absolutely no sense and seem to be betraying their oaths and traditions. Why, in the depths of their crisis, are they being forced to feed and home thousands of wildings when it's not even assured that they've got enough to feed themselves? Why are men who have bragged about killing crows all their lives suddenly running Night Watch forts? Why is Jon marching on Winterfell, when there's a friggin zombie invasion going on and the oaths they all took explicitly forbid him from doing so? If you look at it from outside Jon's perspective, it's easy to see why they might have serious doubts about his leadership skills and loyalties, and Jon's own demeanor and habit of telling no-one anything more than what he thought they needed to know did nothing to help with that. So it's not that Martin simply wants a narrative showing how awesome Jon is to keep leading in such adversity, it's a deconstruction of the traditional Byronic Hero where such traits actually work against him.
  • Why is it so difficult for the southron lords to understand that the wildlings have a totally different culture from theirs, that "king" is a title to be won in battle and not handed down to generations or family members, and marriage practices are vastly different from their own? I'd understand if they were speculating way down south about this, but they're at the Wall, interacting with wildlings face to face, and talking with men from the Watch like Jon who've had dealings with the wildlings. Yet they continue to call Val a "princess" and pigheadedly ignore all evidence and protests to the contrary.
    • For the same reason people have difficulty understanding and filtering other cultures outside of their own room of reference. It is easier for Jon Snow, the Stark Bastard and member of a Night's Watch (itself an organization that allows for egalitarian mixing of different classes and relatively meritocratic) to understand the Wildlings than for King Stannis Baratheon and his royal retinue fighting for a throne that is his by right.
    • Also, the unfamiliarity of the southerners has to do with the fact that the Night's Watch apparently only purpose in later years was to keep the Wildlings away. Having been demonized in their popular culture, the southerners consider the Wildlings as lesser, barbaric peoples; as such, they're assuming that the free folk that crossed the wall at that moment want to adopt the regal system that the supposedly superior southerners have developed for themselves, fleeing from their "savage ways", so to speak.

  • Why was Olenna Tyrell betrothed to a Targaryen? She's a Redwyne by birth, so it seems she wouldn't be nearly important enough to be considered. The only explanation I can think of was that she was extremely beautiful in her youth, which is fairly plausible, but still.
    • Redwyne, though not a major noble House, is actually quite powerful. They own the largest fleet in the Reach, for one thing, and viticulture is a very profitable business, particularly in medieval times. But at the end of the day, well, not every Targaryen can end up marrying a princess or an heiress (or their sister), and there would certainly be worse choices than a rich, strong house sworn to one of your greatest allies.
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Something Wicked This Way ComesHeadscratchers/LiteratureThe Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries

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